Mending the Moon by Emma Pearl & Sara Ugolotti

Candle-Ends: Reviews
Shelley Carpenter

Cover of Mending the Moon, written by Emma Pearl and illustrated by Sara Ugolotti. The title, written in script to look like thread, appears in the center of the image over a large glowing moon. The author's and illustrator's names appear in small text under the title. Surrounding the moon is an illustration of a forest at night -- trees, plants, flowers, sky, stars -- primarily in a color scheme of blue, purple, and pink. A number of animals -- birds, rabbits, deer, racoon, fox, bear -- as well as a bearded man with a striped cap and long red scarf and a girl with shoulder-length red hair and a white hat with a pompom are gathered around the moon holding threads.

Mending the Moon by Emma Pearl | Illustrated by Sara Ugolotti

Literature indeed comes in many forms. I’ve had the privilege as a reader and later as an editor for Toasted Cheese to read many novels, short stories, memoirs, and lots and lots of poetry. Children’s literature is no exception. This past holiday season I was reminded of this when I was shopping for books for the young readers in my life. I spent a delightful hour in the children’s section of an independent bookstore, sifting through board books, picture books, easy readers, and chapter books, finding gems in the stacks of what I thought and hoped would be new classics in their lifetimes.

My time in the bookstore also reminded me that children’s literature indeed is its own universe. Yet, the same rules apply as with adult literature. What makes a spectacular children’s story is likable, believable characters, a curious setting, an arcing plot, robust vocabulary and language that has rhythm and cadence. Add to it thoughtful, colorful illustrations and you have a children’s picture book. A tangible marriage of pictures and words.

It’s no happy accident. There is design and purpose. It is the picture book that lures young readers into endless worlds of the imagination. Created exclusively for a small audience (pun intended!), it scaffolds them. For it is the picture book that encourages lifelong readership for those who are lucky enough to be exposed to literature at an early age. And I personally think that it’s a big responsibility for the writers of children’s fiction and non-fiction, too. Huge! Unique only to them. A simple creation story may be the spark that hurls a new young reader into discovering new genres and perhaps a life’s pursuit. It is to these authors and illustrators of picture books whom many of us readers owe a debt.

I recently had the pleasure of reading Mending the Moon (Page Street Kids, 2022) a picture book created in collaboration between writer Emma Pearl and illustrator Sara Ugolotti. Mending the Moon is a whimsical fantasy story offering a unique origin story of how the moon got its spots. The main characters are Luna and her grandfather, Poppa. When Luna witnesses the moon falling out of the sky, she begins a journey to find all the missing pieces.

Emma Pearl chooses her words carefully, using dialogue and description in a simple, elegant form that young readers will understand and relate to.

As they walked into the night, moon shards lay all around them, glowing day-bright. They were hard and smooth and warm. They were pearly and glistening and beautiful. Not a bit like cheese. “It’s like a mermaid’s looking glass,” whispered Luna. (8)

The journey takes Luna and Poppa far from their mountain-top home and deep into the forest where they find unexpected help. Pearl builds a plot that is exciting and surprising from the beginning.

As they stood wondering where to start, the shadows began to move. Pairs of eyes appeared. The animals who lived on the mountain had also seen the moon fall. (11)

Likewise, Mending the Moon’s cover jacket drew me in. Like a five-year-old, I was enchanted by Sara Ugolotti’s brilliant illustrations of animals painted in sparkling jewel tones and soft lilac hues that captured the twilight and evening skies. The pages seemed to glow with little flickers of iridescent light from the forest floor to the dazzling moon which gets even more dazzling as the story progresses. Sara Ugolotti creates a magical element with her palette. The forest in winter is a cozy place with lively characters and creatures that are delightfully drawn with humor and warmth as they work together to fix a very big problem.

Mending the Moon is a unique origin story with timely and universal themes of friendship and stewardship.


Emma Pearl writes fiction for all ages from picture books to young adult. She is based in New Zealand. Her flash fiction was published in the June 2022 issue of Toasted Cheese. Mending the Moon is her debut picture book, and the follow-up Saving the Sun will be published in September 2023. Twitter/Instagram: @emmspearl


Sara Ugolotti was born and raised in Italy. After obtaining a bachelor degree in architecture she earned a degree in Illustration at the International School of Comics in Reggio Emilia. She specialized in children’s book illustration and now works as a freelance illustrator for clients worldwide. She loves art, nature and animals, especially dogs. She lives in Italy with her boyfriend and their frenchie Murphy. Instagram: @sara_ugolotti_illustrator


Shelley Carpenter is TC’s Reviews Editor. Email: reviews[at]

Basement Flat, Corner of Barons Court Road

Emma Pearl

Photo Credit: Julie Jablonski/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

An unlikely setting to barter for your heart’s desire—the back wall so close to the train tracks that the whole building rumbled constantly—but the address I’d been given, nonetheless. November wind cut like a knife, urging me down the steps when I might otherwise have walked on by or dithered on the pavement battling with my second thoughts.

A scrawny, unkempt woman opened the door and regarded me hungrily. Her corvid eyes were too small even for her narrow face. Inside, the flat smelt not of incense but of earth. Plant pots sat precariously on every surface, seedlings every shade of green leaching over edges, handwritten labels that made my breath stutter.

Liver Function. Sense of Smell. Friendship. Premonitions. Courage.

Fear rose in my throat and I fought the urge to run. I had to do this—every other avenue was already exhausted. The curse of infertility was scraping me inside out. I needed a child like air to breathe, no matter the cost.

My eyes kept flitting to the labels, desperately trying to predict what I would be sacrificing to this unwholesome woman who was, apparently, the answer to my prayers.

Curiosity. Singing voice. Childhood memories. Honesty.

The handwriting scrawled like spiders tiptoeing down my spine. Flies buzzed at the window pane—dead bodies piled on the sill—and the strip light in the hallway flickered like a curse, echoing the ragged hope in my heart.

How to play the violin. Left thumb. Remorse.

The woman held out her hand. I had been instructed to bring a personal item. It must be precious, small enough to fit in my palm and have been in my possession for at least five years. I passed her the only thing I could find that fit all those criteria—a brooch that had belonged to my grandmother. I wouldn’t miss it. Doubt plagued me sharp and sudden. Did that mean it wouldn’t work?

She studied it, threw it in the fire that blazed lazily in the hearth. The flames danced and glowed turquoise. The woman nodded. It was enough. She fished it out with a pair of tongs and placed it carefully in a pot, pushing it deep in the soil with her blackened fingernails. She set the pot beside the fly graveyard. What would she write on the label when I left?
Sense of humour. Faith. Confidence.

How could I know then that this trade would render everything pointless?

“Drink this,” she muttered, pouring a glass of dubious-coloured water from a jug. I gulped it down, anxious to leave now. The taste was bitter, and those crow eyes staring into my soul made it bitterer still.

I left, my heart skittering like a trapped fly. Too late for regret now.

A week later, a positive pregnancy test brought the joy I had hungered for. It had worked. But it wasn’t until after the baby was born that the label on my plant pot became clear to me.

Ability to love.


Emma Pearl writes fiction for all ages and is represented by Sera Rivers at Martin Literary Management. Her debut picture book Mending the Moon (illustrated by Sara Ugolotti, Page Street Kids) will be published in November 2022, the sequel Saving the Sun in 2023. She is a WriteMentor picture book mentor. She grew up in the UK and now lives with her family in New Zealand. Twitter: @emmspearl Email: emmspearl[at]