PROS: Beautiful imagery; a moving story.
CONS: The strong language is the only barrier that may keep this from being read to children.
VERDICT: Another unusual effort from a most unusual author.
Lavie Tidhar is a raconteur of an author. Here at SF Signal, John Stevens has engaged with his work in his SF Signal Bellowing Ogre columns, specifically a column where he engages with Tidhar’s novel Osama. With unexpectedly phantasmagorical steampunk (with lizards!), Hebrewpunk, and other ideas gathered from a lifetime of traveling and living all over the world, his work defies boundaries. As an author, he engages with the reader in unusual ways and he is willing to try anything, especially if it results in a reaction. His fearless, often reckless bravery of untouchable ideas and concepts, in a often insolent manner, is the very definition of the word audacity.
So what is Going to the Moon?
Going to the Moon is a picture book about a boy with Tourette’s syndrome. Surprised? I certainly was. And then I read it.
Going to the Moon is a rather different work from the author, yet it continues that tradition of audacity. His intent and desire is to try the unusual, to challenge the reader in ways they haven’t been challenged before, in ways he hasn’t challenged readers previously.
Going to the Moon is the story of a young boy named Jimmy who wants to be an astronaut. He wants to go to the Moon. Jimmy also doesn’t want to have to fight his constant, taxing struggle against the Tourette’s syndrome that dominates his life. He doesn’t like the dance-like involuntary movements it causes in him. He’s bullied, in the way young people who are different are often bullied. The corprolaia of Toruette’s syndrome means that he involuntarily uses curse words, even though he doesn’t want to. As such, the book doesn’t shy away from trangressive words. Words I can’t use in this review.
The real heart and soul of the book is found in the pictures by Paul McCaffrey. They are beautifully and colorfully drawn. But there’s more to the book than just Lavie’s words and the pictures. Like the best picture books, the text and the images engage and interpolate with each other, in a dialogue that makes the book stronger for that interaction. The theme of aliens (and Jimmy himself is definitely an alien in some ways) is reflected in the imagery much more than the text. To cite another example, the use of curse words in exclamation in the imagery reminds me of the innovative subtitles in the movie Night Watch.
And the end brought tears to my eyes as the reader figures out what Jimmy and the friend he makes are too young to realize. Curse you, Lavie Tidhar…your audacity strikes me again.
It’s not a book you’d want to read to your children, because of the language. Although its about a young boy and his concerns, its a book for adults. And it moved me. It will move you, too.