Monday, September 24, 2018

Celebrating the Harvest Moon with two beautiful picture books (ages 3-8)

Cultures around the world celebrate the harvest every autumn, and many involve tribute to the glorious harvest moon. Two of my favorite new picture books honor both the magic of the moon and the importance of family. Both books connect to Asian traditions, and they also reflect North American families celebrating both their American and Asian identities.
A Big Mooncake for Little Star
by Grace Lin
Little Brown, 2018
Amazon / Your local library / Book chat with Grace Lin
ages 3-8
*best new book*
Little Star and her mother bake an enormous mooncake, sharing the joy of baking together. Mama tells Little Star she mustn't eat any yet. Little Star does her best and goes to bed, but when she wakes up in the middle of the night it's just too hard to resist a tiny nibble.
Would her mama notice if she took a tiny nibble? Little Star didn't think so. Mmmm, yum!
As each night passes, Little Star wakes in the middle of the night thinking only of the Big Mooncake. Just one more little bite, and she'll race back to bed. Young readers will smile as the mooncake slowly disappears, recognizing the phases of the moon.
"Night after night,
Little Star took tiny nibble
after tiny nibble
of the Big Mooncake."
Grace Lin creates a story filled with delight and love. In her author's note, she describes how this story celebrates the Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, yet she is creating a new story here, one that reflects her experience as a mother.

I especially appreciate her video book chat, in which she describes the importance of using her work to explore the American side of her identity. I hadn't noticed the explicit nods to Blueberries for Sal before Lin pointed them out, but I certainly felt kinship toward this mother-daughter delighting in baking together.

Ocean Meets Sky, the beautiful, dreamlike new picture book from The Fan Brothers, also blends Asian and North American storytelling heritage. You'll notice nods to Sendak, Peter Pan and more.
Ocean Meets Sky
by Eric Fan and Terry Fan
Simon & Schuster, 2018
Amazon / Your local library / preview art
ages 4-8
*best new book*
In honor of his grandfather who has passed away, young Finn builds a boat for the journey they always wanted to take. Finn then crawls inside to sleep and dreams of a "great golden fish" who takes him on a journey, in search of the magical land of his grandfather’s stories.
"Finn remembered Grandpa's voice
Telling him stories about a place far away where ocean meets sky."
Finn follows the golden fish into his dreamlike world, searching for where the ocean meets the sky. He sees wondrous scenes, with whales swimming among the stars, bookish birds roosting on the Library Islands, and moon jellies dancing in the sea.
"'I didn't think the open sea would feel so lonely,'
Finn said after some time.
This caught the attention of a great golden fish."
Soon Finn's boat lifts out of the water and sails into the night sky, drifting toward the great full moon. As the golden fish swims toward the moon, readers realize that his grandfather's spirit fills both the wise fish and the luminous moon.

Filled with atmospheric blend of Asian imagery and dreamlike fantasy worlds, this beautiful, magical picture book immerses readers into a young boy’s search for healing.

It strikes me how central storytelling is to both of these picture books, as a way for families to connect and pass down their heritage. In both, building and baking serve as a way for generations to connect, to share time and to create something together. My friends, please seek out these truly special books and share them with your families.

Illustrations copyright ©2018 Grace Lin and ©2018 Terry Fan & Eric Fan, shared by permission of the publishers. The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Little Brown and Simon & Schuster. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books