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Moon Landing 50: Moony goes on holiday

April 07, 2020 by Nóra Wünsch-Nagy

2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing. In a previous post we have collected resources for you to learn more about the Moon landing and lots of stories to inspire CLIL and cultural projects in the classroom. Today we look at Moony Goes on Holiday, a space-themed Young Reader written by Dilys Ross and illustrated by Mario Onnis about the day the man on the moon came to visit Earth.

Moony Goes on Holiday


The plot

Every day is the same in Moony’s life: he cleans his home, he waters his garden, then he goes for a walk. However, he feels bored and wants to hear noise and see people. When Alex, the astronaut arrives on the Moon, he agrees to take Moony back to the Earth with him. On Earth, Moony is initially excited about the people and the noises of the busy streets on London. But soon all the noise and confusion gets too much and he misses the peace of life on the Moon.

The themes

The story of Moony touches upon several important themes that interest young and older readers. Moony is seen as an outsider, who watches life on Earth, but knows hardly anything about it. This unknown, colourful planet makes Moony curious and adventurous. When Alex, the astronaut leaves him on the streets of London, he makes sure they meet up the next day so that Moony can decide if he wants to stay or go back home. It seems that Alex had sensed Moony’s possible reaction to life on Earth. Indeed, Moony feels lonely and realises he is happy at home. In some way, this journey made him realise what he thought he wanted was not the same as he needed.

Implicitly, the story creates a feeling of curiosity, the desire to travel, followed by the sense of alienation and realisation of the security of a home and a place where we belong. Although young readers may not be able to reflect on these abstract notions, the feelings the words and the images together create in them will be familiar and will go towards developing a greater sense of empathy and self-awareness in them.

The author, Dilys Ross on the story

“The idea of Moony came to me a few years ago, when I was writing a play to be performed at the children’s Christmas party in the office where I worked (the British Council).  We couldn’t afford an entertainer or professional storyteller and the children were getting fed up of seeing a film every year, so my colleagues and I started putting on little plays, written by me, and they were usually a success. I tried to find themes they would recognize but which weren’t just based on every-day life (family, school, etc). Pirates, cowboys and Indians, witches and fairies, and mermaids were some of the themes. I thought the children might like something about the Man in the moon, whom they would probably have heard about in stories or nursery rhymes, but they knew didn’t really exist.

I don’t know if children today can understand a person NOT wanting noise, crowds and music everywhere! I hope however that they can understand that Moony needed to see something different and to experience the wonderful life on Earth he had heard about – but really in the end everyone should be content with the life they are familiar with and the things they know and understand. Moony is happier at the end because at least he knows a little about Earth and what it is like, and can appreciate his own peaceful home and surroundings all the more. Children today might prefer a story written the other way round – about a person living in a noisy, crowded environment trying out a taste of life in a quiet, peaceful place and then preferring to return to the chaos and crowds!  However I think that they will still understand that the message is basically that home and what you really know are the things you can live with best.”

The illustrations

The illustrations by Mario Onnis create a melancholic, dream-like world for Moony. 

Moony garden
Moony in front of his house. Illustration by Mario Onnis. © Helbling Languages
Moony room
Moony is getting dressed. Illustration by Mario Onnis. © Helbling Languages


The illustrator, Mario Onnis on the images

“I remember when I was studying the character I had recently arrived in a new city. I didn’t know many people, and surely this state of mind is reflected in Moony’s melancholic face. I wanted him to look a little sad, a little dazed and out of time. The first spread (ed. double-page illustration) I started was that of the house, in which he is sitting on the steps, a little bored. So I put together some things that I liked, for example Moony’s house is that of Bosch’s painting “The Wanderer” (16th century).

I really enjoyed creating his wardrobe and the things he uses in his daily life on the moon. The spaceship, his kitchen, his room. A lot of the things are related to time measurement, like the hourglass and various clocks, an astrolabe. On the wall of his room, in the scene, I put a frame with a very realistic drawing of the first man on the moon. I imagined that Moony had kept the photo as a memory of the first visit of an earthling. If you look closely, it is a portrait of Buzz Aldrin, the first man to arrive on the moon on  Apollo 11 in 1969.”

Moony room wall
Picture of the first Moon landing in 1969 on Moony’s wall. Illustration by Mario Onnis. © Helbling Languages


The activities

The Before Reading and After Reading activities will help you develop several language areas:

  • Structures: adverbs, comparative, present simple and continuous, present simple vs. present continuous, ‘want to’
  • Vocabulary: space, town, transport and daily actions
  • Functions: describing space, comparing things, saying what you want to do, talking about how you feel

We recommend the exercises on the CD-ROM that comes with the reader: you will find a jazz chant and games to play.

Play Station project

Apart from developing all these language structures and vocabulary areas, the story is a great resource to talk about Science and Geography. The Play Station project is a fun introduction to learn more about the planets, the Sun and the Moon.

Moony project
Play Station Project in Moony Goes on holiday. © Helbling Languages