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Paper Plate Education
"Serving the Universe on a Paper Plate"

Bad Moons Rising (with Comments)

What's wrong with these pictures?  Plenty!

As detailed in the Bad Moons Rising activity, a random sampling of children's books at a small local library reveals frequent errors in how moon phases are depicted.  Below are excerpts from the books and brief descriptions of the story.  Click on the thumbnail image to enlarge.

Compare your observations with these comments about shortcomings and errors in the illustrations.  The comments assume the vain position that the scenes occur in the mid-northern latitudes.  The comments also deny artistic license to the illustrators.  Please pardon the conceit.  This table is available without the comments at the Bad Moons Rising activity.  Additional Bad Moons are at the More Faux Phases page.

For an example of more accurate illustrations, see Good(night) Moons Rising.  

Please send examples both of bad moons and of good moons rising--preferably with a digital image and complete information for each column below--through our  Feedback page.  Thank you.

The Story  Comments
So That's How the Moon Changes Shape

Allan Fowler

Children's Press, Inc.

Different moon shapes are labeled. The first quarter moon is labeled "half moon."


[See correction below.]

Cranes arrive to lift Percy the train out of the water when "it was nearly dark" and a crescent moon is visible. A waning crescent moon is visible, suggesting the sun is about to rise.  A crescent moon seen in the early hours of darkness should be drawn as a waxing crescent.
Wake Up and Good Night

Author: Charlotte ZolotowI
Illustrator: Leonard Weisgard

Harper & Row

Shortly after "the golden sun is down," a crescent moon is visible above the buildings.  
no_star_to_see.jpg (22312 bytes) Half a Moon and One Whole Star

Author: Crescent Dragonwagon
Illustrator: Jerry Pinkney

Aladdin Books
(Macmillan Publishing Co.)

The morning sun is rising while, above it, "half a moon...falls and fades and will go soon." A last quarter moon will precede the sun in rising.  The sun and moon will travel in opposing directions (rising and falling) after the last quarter moon transits the meridian.  A quarter moon will appear 90 degrees from the sun, not "above it" as suggested.
So That's How the Moon Changes Shape

Allan Fowler

Children's Press, Inc.

A diagram depicts the phases of the moon that result from the moon's "traveling in a big circle around the Earth." 1.  By showing the American continents from the side, the diagram suggests the moon orbits over and under (i.e., perpendicular to) the equatorial plane.  2.  The notion of angular measurement (23 1/2 degrees) is introduced in a book that is targeted at very young readers.  3. The earth's axis is tilted 23 1/2 degrees, but the continents are drawn vertically.  4. The phases labeled in the direction of the arrows should read New Moon, First Quarter, Full Moon, Last Quarter.
Norton's Nighttime

Jane Breskin Zalben

William Collins Publishers, Inc.

Three animals walk through the woods at night, with the moon visible throughout the hike. The phase of the drawn moon lacks continuity between scenes, changing from waxing crescent to full moon.  The apparent phase of the real moon will not change appreciably in one evening.
The Midnight Ride of Thomas the Tank Engine

Author: Rev. W. Awdry
Illustrator: Owain Bell

Random House, Inc.

The book cover shows a full moon low on the horizon while a watch indicates the time is midnight.  Throughout the book, the train makes a midnight run while a crescent moon is visible in the Christmas-time sky. 1. The cover with its full moon lacks continuity with the story, which has a crescent phase.  The moon will not dramatically change phases in the course of one evening.  2. A full moon at midnight in December will appear high in the night sky.  3.  A very thin waxing crescent moon suggests the sun has recently set.  Such a thin sliver would not be in the December sky at midnight.
Around the Clock with Harriet

Betsy and Giulio Maestro

Crown Publishers, Inc.

Harriet is going to bed at 8:00 p.m. with a crescent moon visible out the window. A waning crescent moon is visible, suggesting the sun is about to rise.  A crescent moon seen in the early hours of darkness should be drawn as a waxing crescent.
  A silhouetted family views a crescent moon, presumably in the late evening.  The text states, "Soon...the new moon will rise." The moon shown is a waxing crescent moon, having already been a new moon within the past week.  Soon this thin waxing crescent moon will be setting.
Edward's Overwhelming Overnight

Rosemary Wells

Dial Books for Young Readers
(Penguin Books)

The mother bear is shoveling snow with a crescent moon visible.  Later that night the father bear is driving behind a snowplow with a crescent moon visible. The phase of the moon lacks continuity between scenes.  The phase of the real moon will not change appreciably in one evening.  Also, the moon would not be visible in a blinding snowstorm.
The Going to Bed Book

Sandra Boynton

Simon & Schuster

The animals on a ship are preparing to go to bed, with a crescent moon "on the rise." A waxing crescent moon seen just above the horizon in the evening should be setting, not rising as described.

Robert Wahl

Price Stern Sloan

After ushering some children to bed, a boy speaks to the moon "as the moon rose over Tangled Hill." The waxing crescent moon, seen in the evening after sunset, should be setting.
P.J. Funnybunny Camps Out

Author: Marilyn Sadler
Illustrator: Roger Bollen

Random House, Inc.

Several animals are in a tent "soon [after] it got dark" with a crescent moon seen outside. 1. A star is visible between the cusps of the moon.  2. A waning crescent moon is visible, suggesting the sun is about to rise.  A crescent moon seen in the early hours of darkness should be drawn as a waxing crescent.
Nine O'Clock Lullaby

Author: Marilyn Singer
Illustrator: Frane Lessac

Harper Collins

A scene from nine o'clock in the evening in New York is compared with concurrent scenes in other parts of the worl.  The moon is visible in several scenes. 1. Though the story is a snapshot in time, the moon's phases lack continuity as drawn.  The night of a crescent moon in New York will be the night of a crescent moon in England.  2. The moon will not necessarily be seen above the horizon concurrently from multiple sites around the globe.
 It's Time to Go to Bed

Author: Joyce Segal
Illustrator: Robin Eaton

Doubleday & Company, Inc.

Baby polar bears prepare to go to bed with a crescent moon visible. 1. The drawn moon lacks continuity from page to page, switching between a waxing and a waning moon phase.  2.  Even though the cusps of the thin crescent moon point downward from horizontal, suggesting the sun is above the horizon, the stars are visible. 3.  A star is visible between the cusps of the moon.
Goodnight, Gorilla

Peggy Rathman

G.P. Putnam's Sons

A woman goes to bed with a crescent moon visible out the window while the clock is at 10:35 p.m. A waning crescent moon is shown near the horizon, suggesting the sun is about the rise.  A crescent moon seen near the horizon in the early evening would be drawn as a waxing crescent.
murphy06457.jpg (18168 bytes)

murphy06463.jpg (15435 bytes)

murphy06466.jpg (38164 bytes)

Why Does the Moon Change Its Shape?

Author: Patricia Murphy

The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc.

Two images are described as the near side and far side of the moon.



A series of images depict the phases of the moon.


Image accompanies description of a lunar eclipse.

Credited to two sources, nearly identical photos show parts of both sides.  Note Mare Crisium and Seas of Tranquility and Serenity.  

Rather than show typical moon surface features, this depicts unfamiliar moon image.

While technically a lunar eclipse, it suggests an eclipsed sun.  From original art, foreground earth was replaced by moon.  Plus, the supposedly eclipsed moon is illuminated.

Correction:  The book showing Percy the train being lifted out of the water was erroneously attributed.  We apologize to Owain Bell, who was not the illustrator of that book, as we had suggested.  We invite you to contact us if you can correct the information on title, author, illustrator, and publisher for that book.   7-8-03

Note:  The images above are the copyrighted property of the respective creators, as cited.  The images are reproduced here for educational purposes under the Fair Use premise of U.S. copyright law.

Contributed by Chuck Bueter.

GLPA Proceedings, 1997, p. 161.

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