The first scene in "Touch the Moon" captures a pain every kid has experienced: crushed expectations. Jennifer has dreamed all her life about owning her own horse, and now, on her 11th birthday, she is ready to be surprised with this gift of gifts. But when her palomino turns out to be merely a china figurine, she runs outside to hide, devastated and humiliated that she'd been so sure of something that wasn't.
She broods high up in a spruce tree, and when she throws the figurine to the ground, instead of a crash, "a swirling golden mist" produces a real stallion. Not only does he talk but he's cranky, conceited and as cynical as Mr. Ed. Reluctantly, he lets her ride him, and off they gallop into the night, invisible to calling parents.
This lighthearted fantasy is a switch from the realism of Bauer's Newberry Honor Book (1987), "On My Honor," which explored the guilt a boy feels after his best friend drowns. Here Jennifer wonders, "Did believing make something real?" and when her father lets her in on a secret of his own, she learns a deeper meaning of "to dream." Alix Berenzy's charcoal drawings evoke the mystery of this late-night adventure.