a big mooncake for little star

The American Library Association's (ALA) annual conference was in DC this year, and so of course I went! Two days spent tooling around the exhibit hall, meeting authors and librarians and publishing folk – what's not to love? And then of course there were the moments of literary serendipity, like happening by a signing for Grace Lin’s Caldecott Honor picture book A Big Mooncake for Little Star! I hadn’t yet read this title, but I knew Lin from her middle grade books, and like any self-respecting former library brat, I knew that a Caldecott sticker meant “GOOD THINGS INSIDE.” I’m happy to say it’s several levels better than good.

a big mooncake for little star by grace lin book cover
Pat, pat, pat…

Little Star’s soft feet tiptoed to the Big Mooncake.

Little Star loves the delicious Mooncake that she bakes with her mama. But she’s not supposed to eat any yet! What happens when she can’t resist a nibble?

In this stunning picture book that shines as bright as the stars in the sky, Newbery Honor author Grace Lin creates a heartwarming original story that explains phases of the moon.

In this picture book, novelist Lin both writes and illustrates a story about a mother, a daughter, and a too-tempting mooncake in the sky. It’s too delicious to leave alone, so each night Little Star takes a bite of the mooncake after she goes to bed. Little by little, the mooncake disappears, just like a waning moon, until all that’s left is a trail of glittering crumbs.

There’s obvious symbolism throughout the book: the mooncake as the moon, growing smaller every night. Both mother and daughter wear star pajamas that melt into the black, nighttime background. And of course, Little Star’s name (or nickname) fits the bill as well. All of these (and more in the endpapers) will delight younger readers just beginning to notice and appreciate the different ways language can be used, as well as adults.

There are other elements that will be familiar to children as well: bedtime routines, sneaking food when you’re supposed to be asleep, “tricking” your parents/adults, and so on. Taken together with the symbolism, and the striking art, the book feels like a fable or legend – something epic that explains natural phenomena in story form. Lin illustrated the book in gouache paint on paper, and each page is glossy and dark with white font and bright painted illustrations that draw the eye. The unique design is a welcome change from the default of negative white space. It also makes sense for a book set at night.

Another welcome element? Both Little Star and her mother are Asian (making this an #ownvoices book), and mooncakes are a culturally Asian food associated with the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. I believe that diversity in books for young people is so important, and I’m thrilled that children will see themselves, and possibly their cultural heritage, represented in this beautiful, epic story. Seeing yourself as the protagonist in a story can be the catalyst to believing in your own future! And for others, there will be learning about mooncakes, Moon Festivals, and cultural traditions different from their own (and appreciation for a simple bedtime story!).

In all, A Big Mooncake for Little Star is a gorgeous, charming, and deceptively simple picture book packed with symbolism and meaning. It will appeal to readers of all ages and it’s a must for any child’s shelf.

Recommended for: any and all readers ages 4+, and especially anyone who enjoys exceptional picture books with mythological themes.

Fine print: I picked up a final copy of this book from the publisher at ALA for possible review. I did not receive any compensation for this post.

1 comment:

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

Awww, this book looks really charming. I'll have to look for it next time I'm at the library with my lil godson -- although he himself does not care much about food and may not find this story relatable.

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