There is a rule that moons in picture books must be bigger than the look in real life, from anywhere on Earth. I didn’t fully realise this was a rule until a beta reader for Midnight Feast asked me why my moon was so small. In fact, the moon was the ‘correct’ size, but then I realised why he had asked the question: Every single picture book I looked at had an oversize moon.
Why is this? I believe it’s because picturebooks don’t happen in the real world. They happen inside this other reality, in which size is all out of whack. Children can behave autonomously as adults; adults can behave as children.
For the record, the moon at the end of Midnight Feast is now oversized. I did change it. And yeah, it does look better.
final scene from Midnight Feast
There is also an oversized moon in The Artifacts, but because it’s in a picture book, it doesn’t look big, does it?
Why is the moon so important in literature?
- A (large) moon can infuse your story with magical powers, even when the story is not of the fantasy genre per se.
- The moon is a physical manifestation of fate.
- A moon can be seen from everybody, anywhere on Earth and therefore makes a story feel universal, much like a myth.
- The moon can lend a feminine feel to a story, since it is connected to the menstrual cycle.
- The moon is comforting, since it waxes and wanes predictably.
- In picturebooks, for practical purposes, the moon provides a great source of light, making night scenes glow.
The Moon ‘Incorporated’
Sometimes illustrators emphasise the importance of the moon by incorporating the celestial object into the design in a way that makes the moon seem part of the earthly landscape.
On the cover of Slinky Malinki it’s done subtly, with the glow from the moon providing an illuminating frame for the title.
Which Witch’s Wand Works? by Poly Bernatene
Kay Nielson’s illustrations incorporate the moon more fully into the story, as the story requires:
East of the Sun and West of the Moon, 1914 Kay Nielson
This is a crystal ball, but we’re lead to associate the crystal ball with the moon.
Red Magic, 1930, Kay Nielson
In Powder and Crinoline, 1912 Kay Nielson
In her illustrations of Beauty and the Beast, Schroder creates a fantastical moon which is actually smaller than a real moon.
Here’s the Beast, looking very much like Beauty’s little dog. He is depicted in this story as a chimera. Even more terrifyingly, his castle is full of chimeras — most startlingly, the table with leopard legs.
Massive Moons On Book Covers
There’s a graphic design advantage to huge moons as covers — the moon provides a light-coloured circle upon which to showcase the title.
This story was based on the author/illustrator’s dream.
Oversized Moons In Books For Adults
This design feature isn’t limited to kidlit. Adults and teens are also drawn to oversized moons.