Author-Illustrator Lin Ssu-Chen: Creating Beauty and Loneliness
I actually came up with the story for The Moon Wants to Sleep by chance after seeing a photograph. It was a picture of the moon looking big and round on a dark night, shining very brightly but in a way that seemed lonely and stirred something within me, so since then I’d wanted to write a story based on that image. Then, one night I was out walking my puppy beside the river when I saw the moon and suddenly thought, what if the moon was like a person and wanted to go to sleep at night in the same way everyone else does? That was how naturally the story came up.
The moon in the story is always hanging alone in the dark night sky, it wants to fall fast asleep at night like everyone else but that won’t work because its light is just too bright against the darkness, in the same way that anyone who has ever experienced loneliness knows how it feels to look on enviously at the beauty and warmth of everyday life around them. By trying to be like everyone else, the moon ends up forgetting its own beauty and how even though sometimes the silence can be lonely, there’s also a lot of beauty in that silence.
I chose to use charcoal and graphite pencils to create illustrations that were a blend of black, white, and gray. Since there were no other colors, the possibilities between black and white felt endless and there was a gentleness to the shading which was perfect for portraying the soft halo of light around the moon.
Judge and Author-Illustrator Lesley Liu: The Moon’s Midnight Wish
“Moon, what’s the matter with you? Isn’t it time for you to go to work? Why do you want to sleep?”
Doesn’t seeing these questions make you want to ask: “What’s the moon doing out in broad daylight?”
When the sun is out during the day, the moon is in pitch darkness. Given that the moon’s only friends are the millions of planets and stars who stay fast sleep all year round, what can the moon do during the day besides sleep? Could you imagine if you had to sleep until it was time for work, only to roll out of bed and look down on a cloud-filled sky to see that everyone else was already asleep? It makes total sense for the moon to want to sleep at night! It would even sleep better in the cold, solitary night sky bathed in a soft halo of light! The moon coming out can also symbolize being awake at night when you’re tired and want to sleep, which could make this a good book for people suffering with insomnia.
For the book’s illustrations, the image design and composition are all well thought out and skillfully drawn. Although Lin Ssu-Chen only uses variations of black and white, the images still feel warm and the full moon is a soft, plump sphere which feels so cozy that the reader can imagine it snuggling in bed. Lin gives it just the right amount of expressiveness and has added a pair of hands which work well for dramatic purposes. Even better still, when we see the moon from behind as it scuttles between buildings in the city, we discover it has butt cheeks! Never underestimate the power of a single brushstroke! Children really love this kind of humor and it can leave them feeling happier and more relaxed. Believe me, that single brushstroke might just have an influence on how they see the world. I’m someone who absolutely loved funny drawings as a child and that humor ended up shaping my personality to a certain extent.
Doesn’t the moon always seem aloof in a way that makes you want to approach but you don’t want to disturb it? Lin’s book captures this feeling too. Between the moonlight in the starry sky, the reflections in the water, the shadows and brilliant rays of light rendered solely in black and white, this is a rich picture book filled with a sense of anticipation that makes it a truly enchanting read.