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Dreamers may like ‘Ladder to the Moon’

All along the wall, sitting on a shelf, and tucked in a book are some things that Mom says are precious. And you get to look at them sometimes.

They are pictures, some taken of you and some taken before you were born.

There you are as a tiny baby. There’s Dad when he was your size and Mom at a long-ago birthday party. And there’s Grandpa from olden times, and a smiling grandma you never knew.

What was she like? You wonder, and when a little girl has a chance to find out, she takes a “Ladder to the Moon,” as you’ll see in the new book by Maya Soetoro-Ng, illustrated by Yuyi Morales.

Suhaila always wondered what Grandma Annie was like. Suhaila’s mama said that Grandma Annie was soft and full, just like the moon.

Later that night, Suhaila was lying in bed when she looked skyward, and she wondered some more about Grandma Annie. And then, as she was thinking hard and listening to crickets, a ladder appeared at her window, followed by two magical shoes.

It was Grandma Annie, and she reached out to Suhaila. Together, they climbed the golden ladder up to the moon, sat down and got comfortable, and listened to the voices coming from the earth.

And they watched.

When a 50-foot wave swept onto the land, Grandma Annie pulled the people by their fingertips onto the moon, where it was safe. But she tasted other troubles, and when the earth swayed, she called to a pair of sisters trapped on a tower.

Once the sisters were safe, they told Suhaila and Annie that there was so much to do. Fires needed tending and gardens needed to be planted. Grandma Annie told Suhaila that they could do it, if they built bridges between people. They could stop wars, too, and they could make people happy.

Up on the moon, Suhaila knew more and saw more than she’d ever known or seen before. But she also knew Mama missed her, and it was time to go home again.

Do you have a big dreamer in your life? Then “Ladder to the Moon” might go over well, but I thought it was one strange little book.

Based loosely on the relationship she wishes her daughter could have had with her mother, Soetoro-Ng — half-sister of President Barack Obama — tells the story of a little girl who goes on a dream-visit with her grandmother, Stanley Ann Dunham Obama Soetoro. That part of this book is adorable. Really, who hasn’t wished to spend time with an intriguing relative they never got a chance to know?

But once the story takes off, it scatters into several barely cohesive pieces and then ends abruptly, which left me feeling like there were pages missing (there weren’t). Perhaps my adult sensibilities got in the way, but this book, though beautifully illustrated by Morales, seemed too disjointed.

Kids 5 to 7 may enjoy this story, but I’m not sure parents will. For them, “Ladder to the Moon” may be one rung short.

Terri Schlichenmeyer’s children’s book reviews appear weekly in View.

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