Eli Treebuckle, Master Mechanic in John Rocco’s “Moonpowder”


Myra here.

When my 11 year old daughter found this book at the library shelves as she was helping me search for picturebooks that fit our theme, I knew this would be a perfect choice. Plus, John Rocco happens to be a personal favourite.


Set in the 1940s period, Eli Treebuckle, a young boy, is portrayed as one master mechanic, quite good and efficient with his tiny hands. Being the “man of the house” while his father, a soldier, was away, he seems to be able to fix just about anything (their radio, vacuum cleaner, electric fan). Well, almost anything but the fact that he is unable to sleep well at night. And so, he would rather work on his invention, a helio-rocket-copter, than be overcome by a recurring nightmare where he climbs a mountain of junk in the dark, “desperately searching for something he could never find. And each time, he would fall.”


Things take a turn for the fantastical when a luminous circular figure with a smiling face and elongated hands peered in from the window asking for Eli’s help as he is, no doubt, “fixer of all things fixable.”


Apparently, the Moonpowder factory has a few kinks that need ironing out. For one, the Dream Tank is empty, and without it there can be no sweet dreams (which partially explains Eli’s predicament). Mr Moon provided Eli a helpful notebook that serves as an overview of the entire factory and how it works and he explained further:

“Without dreams, we can’t make Moonpowder, and if we can’t make Moonpowder, no one will have sweet dreams.”

The logic is irrefutable. Since Eli doesn’t have the dream stuff that allows the factory to manufacture moonpowder, he was given the task of finding “The Special Emergency Dream Kit” found in Mother Nature’s Closet. With his deft hands, he is bound to get the kit with little mishap. Unlike the time that Mr Moon accidentally opened a freezer filled with snowstorms in the middle of summer. Eli would undoubtedly be extremely careful.


But with crates labeled tornado dispenser, barrels of lightning, and thunder rumbling from dust-layered trunks, would Eli be able to find the small red box that contains the backup supply of pleasant dreams needed to create moonpowder? Or would he be reliving his recurrent nightmare, forever lost, fumbling in the dark? The answer to this, I shall leave to you friends to discover.

This is a picturebook that allows a young child filled with unarticulated longing to escape outside the layers of the universe to save the dreamworld astride his own finely-crafted helio-rocket-copter. It speaks of resourcefulness, a strong father-child identification despite the glaring absence of the father, and the poignant truths of what it means to be separated from a loved one for reasons that are beyond a child’s imaginings to understand. John Rocco’s masterful artwork, the vintage 1940s feel of the sepia-toned illustrations, Eli’s expressions of wonder, studious concentration, and surprised glee are fully captured in the colour-filled pages of the book. The book’s dedication page shows that this is written for “the children of soldiers everywhere.”

Moonpowder. Story and Pictures by John Rocco. Published by Hyperion Books for Children, 2008. Book borrowed from the public library. Book photos taken by me.


Read-a-Latte Challenge Update: 249 (150)

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3 comments on “Eli Treebuckle, Master Mechanic in John Rocco’s “Moonpowder”

  1. Ooooo, I LOVE John Rocco’s work! It’s amazing! I got lucky and had the pleasure of talking to him at a book festival recently and since I didn’t have MY copy of BLACKOUT with me, he signed one of his bookmarks for me to put in the book :) He’s such a nice guy :D For sure, I’ll be looking for this one!

    And, btw, for Fats’ latest blog post “Moonballs of Happiness in Laura L. Seeley’s The Magical Moonballs”—the link didn’t work :(

    • Hi Donna, it was meant to be posted on Saturday. She got her dates mixed up. Haha. That comes with the three of us living in different timezones, I guess. :) It’ll be up by Sat. :)

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