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A big mooncake for little star
Book
2018
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Trade Reviews

  New York Times Review

I know A family who regularly skinny-dip in the Atlantic after the sun has set. I also know a family who live in a gated community, in a house stocked with more guns than they have hands to fire their guns. I feel lucky to have been born to a mother who runs outside at the first sound of thunder, greeting each storm. From her, I learned to love the night, the ocean, the storm, but even so, at times an uneasiness creeps in with the dark. Fear rears its head and I wonder, who taught us to be scared? Who told us night is a fearful realm? "MONSTER is my friend." Emily Tetri's heroine, Tiger, makes this bold statement to her family in the graphic-novel-style tiger VS. NIGHTMARE (Macmillan, 64 pp., $17.99; ages 6 to io). Monster, in nightly bedtime battles, goes head-to-head with nightmares that come for Tiger. When Monster's powers begin to fail, Tiger steps up, taking on a nightmare by denouncing its reality. But real or not, nightmares affect us, and so the true victory in Tetri's book comes in unlikely collaborations and creativity in the face of terror. It comes from befriending a "monster." WHICH MAKES me wonder, how can we stop fear before it ever blooms? An answer exists in three gorgeous picture books that celebrate the chaos, calm and color of night. Kitty Crowther's stories of the NIGHT (Gecko, 64 pp., $17.99; ages 4 and up) IS a blissful release into the world of wonder. I would like to give this book as a gift to every child, every person in my life. Its magic is first evident in its revealing dedication: "For Sara Donati, who slept one night at my house, and dreamed that I made a book called 'Short Stories of the Night' with a pink cover and a handwritten title." Crowther has made Donati's dream come true. This magical totem of a book bursts with beauty, absurdity, generosity and the surprise of the natural world. Crowther makes new myths as she presents a mama bear who tells her child three bedtime stories. In one story, the Night Guardian, with her small gong and illuminated hair, tells Earth's creatures (fish, ants, mushrooms, ermines and humans) when it is time for bed, uniting all life in the magical, unconscious hours of dream and possibility. In another, Zhora, a brave girl who hopes to find the darkest blackberry, is rewarded for her courage: a berry as large as her tiny body and a new friend in Jacko Molio the bat. The third story introduces bearded old Bo, who lives in an abandoned owl nest, where perhaps the owls' nocturnal tendencies have rubbed off on him. Bo is restless. He heads "out into the woods to look for some sleep." Bo's friend Otto, the poet and otter, suggests Bo might enjoy a swim. "It's far too chilly." So Otto advises, "Go in with your coat on then." I hail this triumphant moment where joyful silliness trumps the chokehold of "safety" that flattens some children's literature. Bo has a lovely swim and even finds one of Otto's stone poems under the water. Satisfied and delighted, blessings now counted - swimming, night, bed, poetry, good friends - sleep comes easily to Bo. Crowther's book has all the delightful strangeness of Margaret Wise Brown and Garth Williams's classic "Little Fur Family," but "Stories of the Night" takes place in a hand-wrought, colored-pencil forest made resplendent with rich tones, particularly a shocking pink, so warm and cheerful it fills the woods with joy. An opening illustration shows a bear mother and child returning from a sunset stroll. The darkness is visible on them, graphite fingerprints that feel human, considered and kind. In the distance, their cabin glows with the warmth of the living, while all around them we find this pink - not the Pepto of a blinged-out princess, but rather a regal pink of sunsets, cozy fires, pinebranch tents and a sleeping mushroom family; the pink of wonder, of forests and grateful nights without fear. IN A BIG MOONCAKE FOR LITTLE STAR (Little, Brown, 40 pp., $17.99; ages 3 to 7), Grace Lin brings us her first picture book in eight years, after middle-grade books including the Newbury Honor-winning "Where the Mountain Meets the Moon." Little Star's mother sets a freshly baked mooncake out to cool on the night sky. The rich darkness of the book's pages is cut by the glorious gold of the stars and the child's bright smile as she munches down a full mooncake every month. Her crumbs become astral bodies. The new moon arrives when her nighttime snack is finally consumed. Time to bake another cake! Lin takes what's large and perhaps overwhelming - planetary motions - and translates the scientific into story. Our child protagonist has a hand in the mechanism of the universe. If that's not empowering, if that's not fear-busting, I don't know what is. ROXANE MARIE GALLIEZ and Seng Soun Ratanavanh's gentle, gloriously colorful and imaginative time for bed, miyuki (Princeton Architectural Press, 32 pp., $17.95; ages 4 to 8) also deals with cycles - the cycles a child might pass through on her way to sleep. While this is a bedtime book, it also honors the schedules children set for themselves before bed. Miyuki's grandfather, wise and patient, allows Miyuki time for her own rituals of readying body and mind. He confirms his granddaughter's agenda, rather than supplanting it with his own. Together they gather the snails, prepare for the Dragonfly Queen's arrival with water carrots, turnips and radishes, cover the cats in a cozy blanket, dance, bathe and of course, most important, enjoy a bedtime story. Thus, we grow compassion. We steer clear of hurry, stress, fear and all its attendant reactions: cruelty, isolation and control. Trusting in the cycles of nature, the wisdom of children and the world of wonder is central to all three of these beautiful books. They are lap-size portals to worlds where there is no fear, even in the face of night, mystery and the glorious unknown. Samantha hunt is the author of novels including "Mr. Splitfoot" and "The Seas," which was recently republished with an introduction by Maggie Nelson.

  Booklist Review

Against the backdrop of a black sky, Mama and Little Star bake a giant mooncake. But as she puts the cake out to cool, Mama admonishes her daughter not to touch it. And she doesn't until she wakes up in the night. Then, it's pat, pat, pat over to the mooncake, where she nibbles just a bit. Each night, there's more nibbling, causing the mooncake to change shape, until it's just a crescent. That's when Mama sees what's happened, but she isn't mad. It's just time to make another mooncake. Although the story is slight (and there's no direct aligning of the mooncake with the stages of the moon, either in text or note), the gouache illustrations are excellent. Mother and daughter, both dressed in star-covered black jumpsuits that add bits of light to inky backgrounds, are intriguing characters who come alive through facial expressions. Little Star's impish looks are worth the price of admission. This has no roots in Chinese mythology, Lin says, but she associates it with Asian moon festivals. A complementary read for those holidays.--Cooper, Ilene Copyright 2018 Booklist

  Kirkus Review

Little Star has trouble resisting the Big Mooncake that Mama has hung in the sky in Lin's (When the Sea Turned Silver, 2016, etc.) luminous departure from her usual block-print style.After Little Star and her mama, both wearing jet-black pajamas adorned with bright yellow stars, bake a huge yellow mooncake, Mama reminds Little Star to leave it in the sky to cool. Of course Little Star tries, but she wakes in the night, unable to resist taking a tiny nibble. Mama surely won't notice. Each subsequent night, Little Star steals another bite, and soon observant readers may realize what is happening: The Big Mooncake is waning from a full moon to a new moon. Lin's storytelling is both clever and radiant. Painted in gouache against perfectly black pages, the characters' pajamas have no edges, only the stars defining the separation between foreground and background. The mooncake gleams against the black as well, crumbs scattering like stars in the skya visual delight, suffusing the book with a feeling of otherworldliness that is offset by Little Star's childlike authenticity and her loving relationship with Mama. An author's note on the jacket flap indicates that while this story is not rooted in Chinese cosmology, it is Lin's homage to the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, her "favorite Asian holiday."A warm and glowing modern myth. (Picture book. 3-8) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Summary
<p>When Little Star's mother bakes a delicious-looking mooncake, she leaves it in the night sky to cool. But it looks so tasty that Little Star can't wait, and every night she must take a little nibble of the perfectly round confection until instead of a glowing, round cookie, there is only a shining trail of crumbs!</p> <p>As Little Star takes bites out of the mooncake, readers see that the moon itself wanes, passing through each phase until it becomes a new moon--and Little Star's mother bakes a new mooncake!</p> <p>Illustrated in a limited palette of mainly black and yellow, this striking, book is the latest dazzling offering from award-winning author Grace Lin.</p>
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