Sam, Bangs & Moonshine

CALDECOTT MEDAL WINNER – 1967

Sam, Bangs & Moonshine

by Evaline Ness

Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966

36 pp.

Age: 5+

Interests: cats, imagination, tall tales, storms, ocean, storms, pets, single parent

Other books illustrated by Evaline Ness: All in the Morning Early, A Pocketful of Cricket, Tom Tit Tot

Sam is a little girl who lives by the sea with her sailor father and her cat Bangs. An imaginative child, she is famous for her tall tales (which her father calls ‘moonshine’). She claims her mother is a mermaid, when everyone knows she is dead. She also says she has a pet baby kangaroo, and that Bangs can speak. The only one who believes her stories is Thomas, the little boy from the house on the hill. Every day he visits to see the kangaroo and every day she sends him on a wild goose chase after the elusive pet. One day she says the pet is visiting her mermaid mother at a big rock by the shore, and off Thomas goes. Sensible Bangs counsels her that the tide comes in around that rock and he goes off to follow the boy. A storm whips up suddenly, and Sam is gripped with alarm. When her father comes home she sends him out to the rock, where he rescues the boy but sees Bangs swept out to sea. Sam is flooded with remorse for her ‘moonshine’ tales and the mischief they can cause. Happily Bangs appears at her window, bedraggled but alive. The next day her father finds a little hopping gerbil at the dock in a shipment of bananas and Sam proudly presents it to Thomas as his very own baby kangaroo.

A thoughtful meditation on fancy vs. facts, moonshine vs. reality. Sam realizes that her stories can have disastrous consequences, but she also retains a little faith in her imagination – she decides her rug can still be a chariot pulled by dragons, and that Bangs really can talk to her.

It is of course, also a lesson on thinking of others. In the beginning Sam gives little thought to Thomas, but grows to worry about him and care about him. One feels certain that in the future they will play together, and Sam will spend a little less time alone, wrapped up in her fantasies.

This is a dreamy, moody tale, with illustrations to match. I like that even in the midst of the ‘lesson’ about talking sense instead of moonshine, Bangs the cat suddenly interjects with his own opinions and counsel.

Pretty Terrific Trivia re. Evaline Ness: Her first husband was Eliot Ness, famous U.S. Treasury official who battled Al Capone!

(This title at amazon.com)

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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