I was very excited to get my hands on the recent sequel to The Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood. The title of the new book is The Full Moon at the Napping House, coming 30 years after the original was published. I checked it out from the library the same day I got Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman and Sue Grafton’s X. Awash in sequels and series, I landed at home to a hero’s welcome. My wife was excited about all three books (she’s the Kinsey Millhone fan), and both my kids couldn’t wait to read The Full Moon at the Napping House. My tween daughter immediately took the book to her room and read it to herself. I waited until bedtime to read it with my 1st grade daughter. This, friends, is the true test of a picture book. How does the text sound read aloud? How does it come across to the target audience? Are the illustrations engaging?
The Full Moon at the Napping House, like its predecessor, is a cumulative tale. If you don’t know what this is, think of nursery rhymes like This is the House that Jack Built or the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. A cumulative story is built on what comes before, with repeated words and images that shape the story as it goes along. This kind of cumulative structure is one of the main reasons The Napping House has that sort of fairy tale quality to it. The original story also uses complex metaphors (like the granny breaking the bed) that connote the coded language of nursery rhymes and traditional tales.
The new book has all of the same characters as the original, except the biting flea is replaced with a soothing cricket. The characters are all restless, trying in vain to go to sleep. They are so preoccupied with the giant full moon in the window that they cannot relax. Then, a lone cricket appears and begins lulling the characters to sleep with its chirping song. Most of them, anyway.
Overall, this sequel is a good companion to The Napping House. Don Wood’s expert illustrations propel well-known characters into the present, and Audrey Wood reimagines old friends in new situations. And while the sequel doesn’t quite rise to the level of the original, I think it’s a bit unfair to make that kind of straight comparison with a classic. At least we only had to wait 30 years for this sequel, unlike 55 years for some (thanks, Harper Lee). The Full Moon at the Napping House is a worthy addition to the Woods’ oeuvre, and it should be part of any fan’s reading list.
~Kerol Harrod, Youth Services Librarian