Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Baking Light

As long as the moon glows among the stars in our night sky, people will gaze upward at its light.  Its rhythm from a new moon to a full moon and back gives watchers an overall feeling of tranquility.  It's a comforting constant.

In the French language the word for why is pourquoi.  It is often associated with origin stories under the umbrella of folktales.  A BIG Mooncake for Little Star (Little, Brown And Company, August 28, 2018) written and illustrated by Grace Lin is an original, tender, and exquisite explanation of the phases of the moon.

Little Star's mama laid the Big Mooncake onto the night sky to cool.

This celestial mother and her daughter had just finished baking.  Little Star's mama did not want her to touch this mooncake until she was given permission.  Little Star enthusiastically agreed with the request.  As each portion of her bedtime ritual was performed Little Star remembered her promise.

Suddenly in the middle of the night Little Star woke up.  The only thing she wanted to do was touch the Big Mooncake. She left her bed and quietly went to that tempting treat. Would her mother notice if she touched it?  Would her mother notice if she took a teeny, tiny bite?  It was scrumptious!  Wait!  Was that a noise?

Each night Little Star wondered if the Big Mooncake was still hanging in the sky.  It was.  Each night she took a bite.  She sighed with pleasure at the taste before scurrying back to bed.  When you add all those nights of nibbles together all you have left is nothing.

Little Star's mama discovered the Big Mooncake was missing.  When her mother came to her bed asking if she ate the Big Mooncake again, Little Star only had one answer.  Little Star had a suggestion and her mama, like Little Star, only had one answer.

Each time Grace Lin tells a story, we tuck it away in our hearts to remember forever.  In this tale of the bond between a loving parent and her child, a flawless blend of narrative and dialogue gives us an intimate portrait of their relationship.  The use of sound effects adds to the endearing quality of the story.  Readers are alerted to a possible outcome through the repetition of key phrases which also supplies a gentle cadence.  Here is a passage.

Pat pat pat.
Little Star's soft feet tiptoed to the Big Mooncake.

Would Mama notice if she took a tiny nibble?
Little Star didn't think so.
Mmmmm, yum!

The rich black background peppered with stars stretches across the opened dust jacket, left to right and over the spine.  Little Star holding a Big Mooncake is a depiction of delight as she enjoys the delicious pastry.  There is a bit of a mystery for readers looking at this jacket.  We are not sure yet what will unfold.  To the left on the back Little Star is seated, enjoying a little nibble from a crescent moon.  This image is captioned

Watch the phases of the moon transform as
Little Star takes a bite of the Big Mooncake!

Across the opened book case in a series of twelve small illustrations, left to right and top to bottom, Little Star is taking nibbles from the Big Mooncake changing it from a full moon to a sliver.  The matching opening and closing endpapers honor Robert McCloskey's Blueberries for Sal.  Grace Lin has hidden many wonderful elements in these endpapers referencing that title and our night sky and its constellations.  Little Star intent on helping make the Big Mooncake is unaware of the look on her mother's face but we see the love.

Rendered in

Turner Design Gouache on Arches 100% Rag Watercolor Paper 140 lb. Hot Press Bright White

these illustrations convey the spirit of a shared and cherished endeavor done in relative quiet.  There is a hush radiating from these pages.  Yet, we know the conversations between mother and child are lively but soft, not loud.

The dark clothing covered in stars Little Star and her mother wear add to the overall atmosphere.  The facial expressions on both Little Star and her mother are a study in mood and emotion.  The black background becomes one of the elements in each picture; most of them spanning two pages.

Grace shifts the point of view in each visual to enhance her careful pacing.  When Little Star wakes up in the middle of the night the first time, we are close to the top portion of her face on the left.  On the right the Big Mooncake is waiting for her.  On another night Little Star is much smaller and seated next to the Big Mooncake nibbling.  Her toy rabbit is keeping her company. They are shown on the right side in a larger starry sky.

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  In the upper, left-hand corner is a portion of the Big Mooncake.  We are close to Little Star as she races back to bed; her figure moving from the left, over the gutter and taking up most of the right side.  Mooncake crumbs are scattered on her face and streaming behind her.  Her face is smiling.  It looks as though she might be giggling.

This book, A BIG Mooncake for Little Star written and illustrated by Grace Lin, is one of the most enchanting explanation tales you will ever read.  It's about love and the lure of something delectable.  You can use it to focus on the moon phases, cultural folktales, artwork paying homage to another artist, or family.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Grace Lin and her other work, please follow the links attached to her name to access two different websites.  The cover for this title is revealed at All The Wonders.  On the book's birthday Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, highlighted a video on his blog, Watch. Connect. Read.  In this video Grace chats about this book, why she wrote it and speaks about the endpapers.

(I don't know about you but now I am craving authentic mooncakes.)

No comments:

Post a Comment