A true standout among popular childrens books is “Sam, Bangs & Moonshine”. The 1967 Caldecott Medal winning book by Evaline Ness is still just as enjoyable and relevant today.
Samantha (who it seems is always called by the name Sam) is the child of a fisherman. Without a mother present in her life, Sam is free to daydream that her mother is in fact a mermaid. This fantasy ties in quite well to the additional knowledge that Sam’s cat, Bangs, can and often does talk to her and that she has a pet kangaroo.
Sam pays no attention to her father’s warnings that such fantasies are “moonshine” that will someday lead her to nothing but trouble. One of the reasons that “Sam, Bangs & Moonshine” is such an enduring classic among picture books for the 4 to 8 age group is that it is through Ness’ illustrations that the reader is truly drawn into the story. When Sam tells a young friend named Thomas about a cove where her mother the mermaid could be found, trouble ensues. As you might expect, “Sam, Bangs & Moonshine” ends on a positive note, with Sam learning her lesson and steering clear of “moonshine”.
It’s hard to believe that a book that was read thousands of children years ago as a child is still relevant and real enough to pass on to today’s kids. In a day and age when technology is quickly creating a replacement for nearly everything, “Sam, Bangs & Moonshine” is a true comfort.