Our moon is my favourite thing in the universe. I feel hugely connected to this huge and silvery celestial beauty. There is plenty of folklore out there to suggest that other women feel a similar connection to Luna – and let’s be real, I find the concept hugely compelling and love referring to myself as a Moon Goddess – but there is far more about Earth’s lone satellite that piques the interests of all humans. Luna is the brightest object in our sky that won’t blind you if you gaze upon it for hours on end (as an amateur astronomer, this is something I do fairly frequently… now I’m lucky to have a telescope with a moon filter, which is even better!). It is the only planetary body other than Earth that any humans have ever stood upon. It drives our tides and potentially helped jumpstart life on earth; others believe the moon impacts everything from criminal activity to mental health.
One of my favourite things about the moon is how it inspires imagination. One of my favourite childlike notions is that of the Man in the Moon – that the low elevation of the landscape’s maria (as in ‘seas’) form the shape of a human face. If you stare up at Luna for long enough, you’ll likely begin to see a range of other shapes… why not an elephant?
That is the premise of Elephant on the Moon, illustrated by Gosia Herba and designed with Mikołaj Pasiński. The book opens with the “The Lady Astronomer” (women in science, yusss!) sitting down at her telescope and pointing it toward the moon, before she notices something peculiar:
The clock struck ten. The lady astronomer sat down at
the table and pointed her telescope at the moon
The lady astronomer knew the moon like the back of her hand.
Even in her sleep, she could count all the mountains, craters
and oceans of the silvery globe.
But that night she noticed something unusual.
“I don’t believe it. An elephant on the moon!”
As one might expect, she announces her findings to the Moon Society and is met with ridicule and humiliation.
But she sets out to prove them wrong:
She left a note on the fridge. It said: “Gone off to the moon.”
What happens next is glorious and sweet, and illustrated beautifully. It’ wonderful and whimsical: it’s what children’s books are all about! I shan’t spoil what happens, so you’ll have to pick up a copy for yourself!
Something I hadn’t realised – until writing this blog post in fact! – is that this book is somewhat based on a poem: Samuel Butler’s “The Elephant in the Moon”, written sometime around 1670. Telling the story of a group of Royal Society astronomers, this poem is in fact a satire about how the upper classes underestimated the intelligence of the working class. For it is a lowly footman who discovers that the pompous elite are in fact seeing flies, gnats and a mouse – which have become trapped in the telescope’s lens – instead of seeing an elephant on the moon. A triumph of the small over the large! (Full credit for this information goes to Tom Colville: read his really fascinating analysis of this satirical poem on the Kings College London History Department Blog.)
Herba’s Elephant on the Moon takes this story in a different direction, but the inspiration is clearly from this lovely poem, which in my mind gives the story more depth and even more to celebrate!
Elephant on the Moon is out in October from Centrala, a brand-new imprint being sold and distributed by Turnaround. They specialise primarily in graphic novels, along with some gorgeously-designed children’s books. For Centrala, comics means beautifully published, well written, and exceptionally drawn literature. View all of Centrala’s titles on our website!
Elephant on the Moon is published 20 October by Centrala
9780993395123 h/b £12.00
View our entire Centrala list
Post by Sarah