Written by Dennis Haseley, illustrated by Steven Kellogg
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2006
She was a beautiful moose, the most beautiful in the forest.
Did You Know? Moose can swim up to 6 miles per hour.
The central moose character here is a male whose antlers had been twisted into question mark shapes by a falling tree. He loves the most beautiful moose, but doesn’t feel worthy of her. One day, when he finally gets the courage to speak to her, a trapper captures her in a net and takes her away. He pursues, but has to stop when he gets to an open area since it’s hunting season. He visits Professor Owl McFowl, who tells him that the trapper took the beautiful moose to New York City. The moose wants to rescue her, but knows the city is dangerous so Professor McFowl gives him some of his new invisibility formula. Now invisible, the moose walks openly into the city and searches for his lady friend, finally finding her in a cage. To prove that he’s real, he wraps himself in bandages and a robe. She is touched by his courage and he shares the invisibility potion so they can escape together. They lock the trapper in the cage and head back home, leaving footprints in the snow.
Author Dennis Haseley is a favorite of mine, with his focus on interesting characters and strong emotional connections. This one didn’t quite work for me, though. One thing I usually love about his books is that the characters feel more real and less caricature, but this one seems to be the complete opposite of that. Our main character moose has the bizarre flaw of having antlers shaped like question marks, which causes other characters to assume he is asking them something. I found this distracting and I didn’t see the payoff, so I don’t know what the purpose of this particular detail. I liked the way the plot was resolved and the message about a person’s character being more important than their appearance, but it felt a little mired in the rest of the story.
Illustrator Steven Kellogg brings his customary sense of humor to the artwork for this book, which is done in ink and pencil, watercolor washes and acrylic paint. An invisible moose moving freely around a big city has lots of opportunity for comedy and Mr. Kellogg makes the most of it. In addition, there are lots of funny little details, such as all the signs at the border crossing (“No spying beyond this point!”) and the facial expressions of the people around him. Having all those comic moments makes the love story component even more poignant, when the invisible moose finds his love caged and on display. The pictures made up for some of what I felt was lacking in the story, but ultimately, I can’t say this one is a favorite.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that when you love someone, all the things you see when you look at them are all less important than all the things you can’t see.