In 2012, Rino Alaimo, released his independent animated short film, The Boy Who Loved the Moon, to great acclaim; like, great acclaim: It won a ton of awards all around the world. It’s a beautiful and deceptively complex work, about a young boy who wants to win the heart of the moon and will stop at nothing to do so, all rendered in moonlit golds.
Alaimo has adapted his own film as a children’s picturebook, and the results are both stunning and disappointing.
Intact are the gorgeous visuals of the film, retaining their golden hues. It really does look like no other illustrated book I can remember ever seeing before; I could probably sit and stare at the pictures for a good few hours. It would not be out of line to call them transcendent, and they are atmospheric in all of the best ways.
The story is something akin to a reversal of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, with the boy trying to give his love to an uninterested moon. It’s heart-breaking at points, and ultimately heart-warming… But there’s also something not quite right about it.
People often complain about the editing of a story that takes place when their favorite book is adapted into a Hollywood picture; sequences are removed or shortened, characters are combined seemingly without purpose, and often it feels as if the connective issue has been excised. This is like that, but in reverse.
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For instance, in the film, after the moon rejects the boy’s gift of a dragon’s eye diamond, the boy comes across an old house inhabited by an old man; the man warns the boy to stop trying to win the moon’s heart, because it cannot be done, and his persistence will change him. The old man then turns into a wolf and howls at the moon. In the book, the old house is there, and so is the man, and he gives the same advice, but the image of the wolf is not in any way tied to the man, and seems incongruous to what is happening; it almost feels like an out of place picture from an earlier sequence involving the dragon. That this sequence is mashed together with another in which the boy formulates his plan makes even less sense.
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I can’t really say why the decision was made to keep the book to a rather brisk 32 pages, when picturebooks routinely push to 40 or more; this is certainly a book that could have used the extra pages to fill out the story, and being a known quantity to so many, it deserved them.
This is not to say that the story is ruined by any stretch, it just comes across as a bit muddled in spots. What remains is a touching tale about a boy and his love of the moon, a love that will not be denied, beautifully illustrated.