Art Beat: A Kite For Moon

Jun 20, 2019

A footprint left on the moon by one of the astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission on July 20, 1969
Credit AP Photo/NASA

The manuscript for a children’s book sat in Jane Yolen’s desk drawer for some time. She loved it. But no one else did. Until, that is, her daughter, Heidi E. Y. Stemple, transformed it.

A Kite for Moon, published by ZonderKidz in Grand Rapids, is dedicated to Neil Armstrong on the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. 

Jane Yolen has written 365 books, many of which have won awards. Heidi E. Y. Stemple writes children’s books, short stories, and poems. The two have co-authored 24 books.

Yolen said during an interview on Skype that her daughter and her younger brother, “were wandering around in front of the television set while her dad and I watched the moon landing” in 1969. Those images left an impression. But Yolen says the book did not begin with the thought of commemorating the moon landing.

Credit ZonderKidz

“It started with a kite. And the reason it started with a kite is because my father, Heidi’s grandfather, was an international kite flying champion. He kind of nominated himself for that. I don’t think he ever had anybody challenge him.”

But someone did. Yolen says one day her father received a letter from a maharaja in India who claimed he was the kite flying champion of the Eastern Hemisphere. He challenged Yolen’s father to a duel, along with airline tickets to fly to his palace to decide who was the true champion of the world.

While details of the story can’t all be verified, it remained in Yolen’s mind as she wrote about a little boy flying a kite for the lonely moon. No publisher bid on the story. But when Stemple tightened it, A Kite for Moon found a home with ZonderKidz. The book is illustrated by award-winning artist Matt Phelan.

“The interesting thing is that we didn’t even think of that dedication until long after the book had been taken by a publisher,” Yolen says. “They were going to bring out last year, I think, and then found out it was the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.”

That seemed the perfect time to launch the book.

“Though the book is not about Neil Armstrong as a boy, we really did want to pay homage to him as the first person on the moon,” says Stemple. “We have to assume his story was something like the one of the boy in the book, where he wanted something, set out to do it, and worked really hard to make his dream into what he actually got to do.”

Yolen and Stemple live with their families side-by-side in Massachusetts. Stemple says that makes for an easy commute as they work together on their books.

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

You can stay in touch with WMUK news on FacebookTwitter, and by signing up for our eNewsletter.