“Can I read that when you’re done?” I pleaded with my elen year older brother.
When I was eight, my favorite books were Jerome Beatty Jr’s series: Matthew Looney’s Voyage to the Earth (1961) followed by Matthew Looney's Invasion of the Earth (1965) and Matthew Looney in the Outback (1969).
Let me rephrase the previous sentence. My brother Junior would check the books out from the Hayward Public Library and read them. I would peer over his shoulder and marvel at Gahan Wilson’s illustrations of characters with onion-shaped heads.
“Stop bugging me,” Junior would respond.
Then Junior would chuckle to himself as he recited various names from the book: Professor Ploozer, Hector Hornblower, Robinson K. Russo, Mr. Bones, Wondervon Brown, Wiley Kalmuck, Dr. Leonard D. Davinci and Rear Admiral Lockhard Looney, known to Matthew as Uncle Lucky. Prefixes were added to certain words for a lunar theme, such as molacopter, moonorail and Moonsters.
I would wait until Junior put down the one of the books to pursue some other amusement. Then I would read about the adventures of Mathew Looney, a boy or moonster who lived on the Moon cave with his working-class family.
Mr. Looney expected his son to follow in his moonsteps and work in a powder factory. Instead, young Matthew served as a cabin boy aboard the Mooncraft Ploozer during the First Earth Expeditionary Force to planet Earth, infamous for it’s noxious oxygen atmosphere, deadly water oceans, and obstructing the view of the sun. In the second book, Matthew received a promotion to Spaceman First Class. By the third book, Matthew Looney comanded his own spacecraft and landed in Australia by accident. I marveled at Matthew’s adventures at exotic places like the North Pole, the Florida Everglades, Australia, like Crater Plato – Matthew’s home town - or Palus Somnii, the location of Earth Expeditionary Forces Headquarters.
According to the author’s bio, “These books are an attempt by Mr. Beatty to answer for himself the question of what the reaction on the Moon might be to our attempts to acquire it phsycially as well as romantically.”
Today, my copy of Matthew Looney's Invasion of the Earth, faded from use and age, smells musty from storage and appears small, almost the width of my extended hand, the spine cracked, the cover worn with gray smudges from peanut butter fingers. As I turn the pages, I journey back to those heady days of yesteryear before Apollo landed on the moon, when all things were possible to this child.