Written by Edith Hope Fine
Illustrated by René King Moreno
Published by Lee & Low Books (1999)
On a grey day where you feel both chilled and sticky from the damp air, there could be no better remedy than to read Under the Lemon Moon by Edith Hope Fine and illustrated by René King Moreno. Warmth and sunshine pour from its colorful pages. Fine tells the story of a young girl seeking to heal her sickly lemon tree whose few fruit have been stolen. She wanders through the village, her pet chicken clucking encouragingly beside her, to ask growing advice of neighbors, friends, and her dear abuela. Her grandmother teaches her both to seek the aid of La Anciana, a wise old woman of the full moon, and to forgive the man who stole her lemons, for though what he did was wrong, he may have done so in need. What follows is a story of healing, generosity, and sharing that brings joy with each brightly painted lemon.
Although predominantly written in English, Under the Lemon Moon incorporates Spanish words that highlight important details of the story. The story does not name a particular location, though it is a place of large, bright flowers and beautifully woven blankets. Moreno’s illustrations bring this kind story a warmth even beyond its written wisdom. Soft, almost impressionistic images burst with color and detail.
Having recently spent some time discussing with a friend in teacher school about the development of ethical understanding, this book struck me as a perfect starting point for talking about ways of thinking about and responding to criminal acts. Rather than assuming that the lemon thief is a bad person, the story asks us to consider what caused him to steal and what the community can do to help him not feel driven to do so in the future while still acknowledging the sadness the young girl feels upon finding her lemons gone.
Although not an environmental book in the sense of depicting the Great Outdoors or teaching ecology, Under the Lemon Moon’s appreciation for gardening, its valuing of shared and ancient wisdom about growing things, and its sensitivity to the ways food security promotes community and justice make this an exemplary environmental justice children’s book.
Cover Image: By Marco Chiesa from Madrid, Spain (Lemon tree) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons