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A big mooncake for Little Star
2018
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  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.

  Publishers Weekly Review

Nighttime paintings by Lin (Where the Mountain Meets the Moon) add magic to this fable about why the moon waxes and wanes. The story's events unfold against the velvety black of the night sky as Mama and Little Star, dressed in black pajamas spangled with yellow stars, work on their mooncake (an Asian holiday treat, Lin explains in an author's note) in the kitchen. Mama takes the cake out of the oven and lays it "onto the night sky to cool." She tells Little Star not to touch it, and Little Star attends but awakens in the middle of the night and remembers the cake. A double-page spread shows Little Star's speculative glance on the left and the huge golden mooncake-or is it the round, golden full moon?-on the right. Whichever it is, Little Star takes a nibble from the edge, another the next night, and so on until the moon wanes to a delicate crescent. Lin successfully combines three distinctive and memorable elements: a fable that avoids seeming contrived, a vision of a mother and child living in cozy harmony, and a night kitchen of Sendakian proportions. Ages 4-8. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

  School Library Journal Review

PreS-Gr 1-Little Star's mother admonishes her not to eat the giant mooncake, which she left cooling in the night sky, but Little Star has her own ideas. Little Star makes a mischievous choice. "Yum!" Each night, she wakes from her bed in the sky and nibbles from the giant mooncake. "'Little Star!' her mama said, shaking her head even though her mouth was curving. ' You ate the big mooncake again, didn't you?'" Rather than scolding, Mama responds with a kind offer to bake a new mooncake. Observant eyes will recognize that the final pages showing Little Star and her mama baking a new mooncake are a repeat of the front papers-a purposeful hint that the ritual is repeated monthly as Little Star causes the phases of the moon. Artwork is gouache on watercolor paper. Each page has a glossy black background and small white font. Little Star and her mother have gentle countenances twinkling with merriment. Both wear star-studded black pajamas that are distinguishable from the inky sky only by their yellow stars and the occasional patch of Little Star's exposed tummy. The cherubic Little Star floats through the darkness, her mooncake crumbs leaving a trail of stardust in the sky. VERDICT The relationship between Little Star and her mother offers a message of empowerment and reassurance. Lin's loving homage to the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival is sure to become a bedtime favorite.-Lisa Taylor, Florida State College, Jacksonville © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Summary
A gorgeous picture book that tells a whimsical origin story of the phases of the moon, from award-winning, bestselling author-illustrator Grace Lin <br> Pat, pat, pat... <br> Little Star's soft feet tiptoed to the Big Mooncake. <br> 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? <br> 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.
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