At one point or another, all children will have to say goodbye to their mothers for the first time—whether for hours (nursery school) or days (a business trip for mom). In Meet Me at the Moon, Gianna Marino captures the pain of parting with a parent, and the comfort that comes from remembering that parent’s love while she is away.

Little One is an elephant on the African plains. During a drought, his mother “must climb the highest mountain to ask the skies for rain.” Little One is upset at the prospect of being alone, but his mother tells him that he shouldn’t worry. She says, “You will feel my love in everything around you.” The baby elephant needs only to listen to the wind, feel the warmth of the sun and seek out the brightest star in the sky. He will hear, feel and see his mother’s love all around him in nature. Besides, while Mama is away, Little One isn’t really alone, since friendly giraffes and zebras look after him.

Marino’s quiet story of separation is sweet and relatable, although it is her gorgeous illustrations, vivid and textured, that will have young readers eagerly turning pages. The gentle animals loom large on the page—loving and expressive—and the African landscape is pictured in bright colors. After Mama leaves, children will be able to feel her presence through the swirling wind—depicted as a stream of dots—and the warm beating sun. They will especially feel Little One’s relief when he remembers to sing out the calling song after the rain has come and gone; Mama suddenly reappears on the plains, and the small family is united and overjoyed. After all, while it may be reassuring to have reminders of a loved one, there is nothing better than saying “I love you” in person and getting a big hug from mom when she finally comes home.

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