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A bear asks ‘Why is the moon following me?’

“Stop Following Me, Moon!” By Darren Farrell Dial.

“Stop Following Me, Moon!” By Darren Farrell Dial.

“Stop Following Me, Moon!”

By Darren Farrell Dial, ages 3-5, $17.99

A few weeks ago my 3-year-old brought her favorite book — “Thank You, Octopus” (2014) by Darren Farrell — to preschool. The afternoon report? During story time she cracked up while her friends in class looked on, flummoxed. I don’t blame them. The first time through “Thank You, Octopus,” the topsy-turvy bedtime rituals of a teasing octopus and his young friend are stunningly absurd. A bath in egg salad? Check. Brushing teeth with paintbrushes? Check. The book’s off-the-wall fun rewards re-readings. I should know. I have read it out loud most days, at least once, for the past year.

The profound silliness continues in Darren Farrell’s new book, “Stop Following Me, Moon!” This time the absurdity is pegged to the idea behind a popular children’s question, Why is the moon following me?

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In Farrell’s book, a guilty bear suspects the moon is shadowing him. It all starts — on the opening set of end pages —because the bear is hungry. So he nabs some berries, then some honey. When those aren’t enough he roams the countryside stealing food, first snagging a fish from the line of a fisherman (“Come to Papa!”) and then swiping provisions — marshmallows, a chocolate bar, a string of frankfurters —from anxious campers. Soon foxes and raccoons follow, lifting goodies from picnic baskets and coolers while campers peer from their tents.

It’s not long before the bear notices the moon, looming over his shoulder, “Hey, stop following me, Moon,” he says. Then the book really starts to move as the bear tries to avoid the lunar gaze. He zigs and zags through meadows, hides behind a tree, and dashes past a judgmental Bigfoot.

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But when a cloud passes in front of the moon, plunging the bear into darkness, the furry guy panics, then starts bargaining: “I swear I’ll be a nice bear. PLEASE COME BACK MOON.” When the moon reappears, the grateful bear shares his plunder with a crowd of campers and woodland creatures. A raucous “Moonlit feast” breaks out; the celebration includes a human-animal hybrid rendition of “YMCA.”

It’s a glorious end to a fable-like story without a heavy-handed lesson. Sure there’s a moon that stands in for a guilty conscience and a gentle reminder about the joys of sharing. But Farrell’s warm, modern illustrations, absurd chase scenes and mischievous characters, guarantee rowdy fun every time you turn the pages.

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