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Book review of Molly on the Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal and Diana Mayo

Life in space means big changes, and when Molly moves to an underground room on the moon along with her mom and her little brother, Luke, there are many new things to discover. Molly uses her imagination to make the most of her family’s limited resources. She creates a fort, a cape and a tea set out of some packing crates, a solar panel cover and a couple of old tin cans. But when Luke wants to play with Molly’s toys, Molly encounters one lesson that’s just as hard to learn on the moon as it is on Earth. 

Illustrator Diana Mayo’s art is an intriguing study in contrasts. She envisions the moon as a world that seems both strange and familiar, vast but confined, cozy yet intensely isolated. The deep blue color palette of her mixed media images feels appropriately lunar and a little mysterious. A string of lights draped over Molly’s fort casts a warm glow that tempers the sense of loneliness amid the vacuum of space. 

Mayo demonstrates her skill for visual storytelling as she employs a variety of perspectives to create the atmosphere (or lack thereof) of life inside this tiny underground room. As Molly’s mom unpacks early on, two red buttons escape from a sewing box; they can be seen floating in every scene in the book, a clever nod to the moon’s decreased gravitational pull. 

Author Mary Robinette Kowal places readers right alongside Molly as the girl puts her powers of invention to good use. Although older readers may interpret Molly’s family’s lunar journey as a metaphor for a myriad of scenarios such as illness, relocation or homelessness, younger readers may ask more practical questions: Why are Molly and her family on the moon? What will they eat on the moon? How will they get back to Earth? An author’s note answers some of these questions but will likely fuel even more.

Molly on the Moon is a sweet reminder that everything is better with a friend—and that a little ingenuity and compassion can lift any situation, regardless of gravity.

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