Many years ago, long before I had children, I spent a morning in my mother’s pre-school classroom, and she handed this book to me to read. I loved it then, and I still do.
Annie and Moon are good friends. They even look alike, which is strange, because Annie is a girl and Moon is a cat. Annie has black hair and green eyes like Moon, and Moon has black fur and green eyes like Annie.
When the story starts, Annie and her mother Meg are on the move, after Meg and Annie’s dad have separated. Meg finds a place to stay in the city, but there are no other children there, so she gets Annie a little black cat for company. Annie loves the cat dearly, and she looks after him tenderly.
He didn’t like his new home. Annie stroked him. “Poor little cat,” she said. “It isn’t easy for a little cat to get used to a new home.” Annie lined Moon’s basket with sheepskin and put it in the corner of the kitchen. Moon seemed to like that, and after a while he settled down.
Meg finds it hard in the city. She has to shift several times, and each time, Annie settles Moon into his new home, saying, “Poor little cat … It isn’t easy for a little cat to get used to a new home.”
Eventually they find a home with Grandma. But Grandma has a dog, and Moon runs away in fear. Will he come back?
The illustrations in this book are beautiful. There is concern and love on Annie’s face as she looks after Moon, and the look of distress and love on Meg’s face as she holds Annie all through the long night when Moon goes missing is a wonderful picture of the close connection between mother and child. Without mentioning it once, the story is set in Wellington; the first house Meg and Annie move to looks to me to be on Pirie St in Mount Victoria, the second one might be in Tawa or Porirua, the third one could be in Brooklyn, or maybe Aro Valley, and Grandma’s house is in Newtown. Again, through the illustrations, we see that Meg and Annie and their family are Maori – just part of the fabric of the story. A few days ago I wrote about how important it is for me and my children to be able to read stories that are set in our place. It’s just as important for Maori children to see themselves and their lives reflected in the books that they read, not as something that makes Maori other, but simply as part of the structure of the society in which they, and we, live (I have no Maori blood myself, but like most pakeha New Zealanders, I have cousins and aunties and uncles who are Maori).
This is a universal story, of the difficulty of finding and settling into a new home (we read it a lot as we made our move over the Tasman). I recommend it to anyone with small children, but especially to people who need to help their children through the disruption of a move.