Was your favorite childhood book MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS? Or maybe it was BLUEBERRIES FOR SAL? A lot of people choose GOODNIGHT, MOON or CURIOUS GEORGE or something by Dr. Seuss.
As a child and even today, I loved all of those books and many more, but the one I remember loving the most when I was a young child? SQUAPS THE MOONLING. I’m guessing most of you haven’t heard of it. Published in 1969, it was illustrated by Sita Jucker with text by Ursina Ziegler and translated from the German by Barbara Kowal Gollob. I don’t know how this book ended up in my hands. We aren’t German; we don’t have family in Germany; truthfully, we don’t have any direct relationship to Germany. Yet, SQUAPS was THE book for me.I don’t know how many times I had it read to me nor how many times I read it to myself, but I know it is in the hundreds, maybe thousands. I even have my copy in front of me right now with my family name and childhood address written in the front cover, in felt-tip marker, in my mother’s impeccable handwriting (why didn’t I inherit that?).
I reread the book today, hoping to discover what it was that I loved so much about that book. I truly couldn’t remember anything about it except that I loved it, I read it a million (?) times, AND the obvious, that it was about a moon creature named Squaps. Which, it turns out, is wrong.
The quick summary (Spoiler Alert ): An astronaut goes to the Moon to find out if there is life there, returns home ready to report that there is not, but discovers that a moonling ventured aboard his ship without him knowing. He brings the moonling to meet his children, who adore the creature, and the moonling discovers that he loves everything about Earth, especially rain and showers and watering cans, since he doesn’t have water back on the Moon. But, as much fun as he is having on Earth, he begins to miss his home. To cheer him up, his friends decide to have a Moonlight Festival on the night of the full moon. At the Festival, he discovers that moonlings on Earth can fly at the time of the full Moon. That night, after everyone goes to sleep, the moonling leaves his friends a present to remember him by, takes a little pitcher of water to show his Moon friends, and flies home to the Moon.
Immediately, I know why I loved it. The moonling is adorable. He is daring (left home) and curious (especially with water) and he has the cutest little eyeballs sticking out of antennae on his head. And, for him, the adventure is even more fun when he realizes that he will be able to share his experiences with his friends when he goes back home. In my heart, I’ve always had a bit of the homebody in me despite my deep need to step outside of what I know and to explore. I’ve always been like that, and I’d like to think that my old friend Squaps was a model for me and ultimately a soulmate.
Something I learned (and, yes, I realize this is fiction but it still makes me happy to believe it) is that on the Moon, all questions are answered with a sound, “Squaps – pff – err.” The first time the moonling made this sound, one of the kids decided that Squaps must be his name. And that happy little moonling jumped for joy with the kids about knowing his name without ever correcting them. How could you not love this guy?
If you haven’t read this book, I suggest you give it a try, if you can find it. There appear to be a few used copies on Amazon. Or you can borrow mine. I’d make you read it at my house, though. Wouldn’t want to risk losing it.
What were your favorite books when you were very young? Do you remember why you loved them so much? Had you heard of my buddy Squaps before today?
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