Book Review: A Big Mooncake for Little Star

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As part of my Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp: https://sarahleastories.com/2019/06/08/post-k-summer-reading-boot-camp-2019/

A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin isn’t great writing but is charming nevertheless. My daughter loved this book from the beginning. The illustrations are stunning–I loved the black background with the white writing and the “not-busy” illustrations, the latter of which was an excellent use of negative space.

Though the language could have been richer with more use of metaphor, Mooncake was reminiscent of a Greek myth (i.e. an origin legend), which I enjoyed. However, I feel like this story could have been meatier (or should I say cakier?), for it would’ve been interesting had the craters on the moon been explained–like too much soda water in the batter or something.

Little Star’s an adorable but mischievous little girl who should not be excused for repeatedly disobeying her mother, who seems to not only know her daughter will disobey but expect it. I think this was a major flaw and something I have to address every time I read the story to my daughter (for whom listening can be an issue).

Though tying this tale into the phases of the moon was clever (as was the “twinkling crumbs” for the stars), there was a problem, which another reviewer on Goodreads pointed out: Where is the waxing phase?

There wasn’t any wasted space with this book, though I think the author should have used a different illustration on the inside front cover (as the illustration is the same on the inside back cover). Perhaps that was by design, showing that Little Star and her mama, like the moon, are in a continuous lunar cycle.

I do think the author including the note about the Chinese Mooncake Festival made me appreciate Mooncake more.

Though the story isn’t a compelling one, it’s okay because there isn’t a lot to read, and the illustrations and the idea behind the story make up for it. I recommend reading this story with a bit of ad-libbing to get your child interested in astronomy and/or another culture.

Recommended coordinating activity: Make a mooncake. This is the recipe I am going to try: https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/swans-down-1-2-3-4-pound-cake.

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#Micropoetry Monday: #Thanatology

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She spent part of her holiday
scrapbooking her memories,
knowing
there would be more of them;
the other she spent
memorializing another’s memories,
knowing
there wouldn’t be
any more of them,
yet both books
were a celebration of life
& the people who lived it.

The friends she’d had during the best of times
were her friends for a season,
& were wonderful in their time,
but the friends who were there for her
during the worst of times
were her friends for all seasons—
sunbeams that warmed the grieving rain.

She put smiley-faced notes in her children’s lunch bags,
left lovey-dovey Post-Its for her husband on the kitchen counter,
& texted silly jokes to her mother when she couldn’t reach her.
She left a paper trail that stretched for miles,
so that when she was suddenly gone,
her family was left to pick up the scraps
that couldn’t even begin to tell the story
of how much they’d meant to her.

Book Review: The Other Woman

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This book sucked me in–only because I wanted to see Emily finally stand up for herself.

For me, this book wasn’t just about the antagonist (Pammie) getting her comeuppance but the protagonist’s (Emily’s) transformation.  If a character doesn’t change (at least temporarily), they’re static–not necessarily the best choice for a main character.

The only character trait of Emily’s I can remember (and I finished this just last night) was that she liked a little wine or champagne to unwind.  I never figured out what she liked to do for fun, what her work life was like, her hopes, dreams, et cetera. She was like a piece of flypaper that crap stuck to; the book wasn’t about her but about the things that happened to her (or allowed to happen to her).  Whenever she did show a little moxie, she backed out at the last minute or past it. She was as dull as dishwater.

Now I like chick lit as much as anyone, but this was like the cliched formula for a chick-lit novel, with the obligatory gay male friend who was perfect in every way (and who the protagonist would marry if he wasn’t gay) and the spunky and fiercely loyal female roommate who is alluded to as being funny, yet she doesn’t say or do anything that makes us laugh.  

As for the love story, it was nonexistent.  Emily is always telling us she loves Adam, but I could never figure out why.  He was attractive (who cares?), had a professional job (whatever that was), and whatever charm (or personality) he was supposed to have was lost on me.  Anyone who would ALWAYS take their mother’s side without question is bad news. I will never understand why women want to force someone to marry them, but if you’re already living together, and it’s working, why not get married?  And if he doesn’t want to marry you when it is working, it might be a good idea to reexamine your relationship. Emily came across as desperate, holding on to Adam at all costs to her, just because his mother didn’t want her to have him.  I’m not even sure why Adam chose her except that he knew she’d put up with his crap indefinitely.

Emily continuously exhibiting extremely poor judgment, which I think stemmed from her lack of experience with men, made me not only lose patience with her but get angry with her.  Her convoluted way of thinking was to get married first and then fix all the problems (which made me think of Congress passing a bill to see what was in it).

The best part of this book–the only part that had any real depth–was when Emily was talking about weddings (p. 257-258):  “We all rush to support this outpouring of love and commitment, yet scratch the surface and you’ll find we feel more obliged than genuinely willing.  There is always something better we could be doing with ourselves on a sunny Saturday afternoon…we’ve spent money that we don’t have, on an outfit we’ll wear only once, and on the cheapest present we could find.”

(I’ve never met anyone who is excited to go to a wedding unless it’s the bride and groom and their parents.  Have you?)

The twist ending was decent, but the title could have used a little more punch as “the other woman” is a cliche.

Is all this to say that I did not enjoy the book?  Not at all. The Other Woman is one of those nail-biters where you just want to see what happens, and then once you read it, you’ll never pick it up again.  

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36212848-the-other-woman

#Fiction Friday: #Novelines from the Book

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I did not want my mother to die, but I wanted David’s love for her to die, for that would be much preferable to hers for him dying first.

Though he had allowed himself to walk into the waters of baptism, he would never walk through the doors of the temple. 

Under the banner of heaven, I pledged my allegiance to David Dalton, but would never recognize his allegiance to my mother.

It was a jubilee of sorts—the tinkling of our fluted stems signaling the beginning of the New Year & of the best years of our lives to come.

It wasn’t the vow David made to my mother, that he would love her, but rather, the vow he made to God to never leave me, that showed me his heart.

Mother’s redecoration of Maxwell Manor resembled the Mormon temples that were open to the moral elite, rather than the Catholic cathedrals that were open to the unwashed masses.

Mother had put off the natural woman to put on the spiritual, for in her eyes, the 2 entities could not co-exist, for 1 would always rule over the other. 

As she drew closer to God, she withdrew from us, even as David & I grew closer than ever.  A part of me still feared losing him if he completely lost Mother.

I had never heard David thank God for anything before, save that night in the hospital, & I wondered, if, in his own way, he was changing, too.

#Micropoetry Monday: The Writer’s Life

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The creative life was not a lonely one,
for those who were captivated by her creations
were led to wonder about their creator.

The newspaper had given her all the facts:
Who had taken her daughter out of the world,
the date & location her silencing had taken place,
what he had done to her
& the manner in which he had done it,
but the why eluded her.
To get that answer,
she had to go to the only one who knew it,
for without the why,
the rest would not exist.

Through her writing,
her readers saw her soul first,
her flesh,
second.
And when they met her,
they saw not a personality,
but a person with one.

Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp 2019

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Many moons ago, I read a blog post that we only have 18 summers with our children, and then they are gone.

So I wanted to do something different with my daughter this season–something besides spending lots of time in the pool, making (and helping her meet) educational and life skill goals, and taking weekenderly (just feeling Shakespearish here) field trips to various places (e.g. museums, the beach, free family events, et cetera).

I searched for a list of books to start my own post-kindergarten summer reading program and found this list of “notable” children’s books of 2019: http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/notalists/ncb

Being a fan of goal and to-do lists, this was it for me.  There are 37 books on the list, and because I will be reading them multiple times (in addition to her favorites), this is plenty.  I had originally planned on coming up with an activity pertaining to each book, but that was just a bit too ambitious for me.  I’ll save that for next year.

After every reading, I will post a review of the book.  If I can pry any thoughts out my daughter, I will include those as well.

My daughter’s at the age where she is just starting to learn to read; I want to make reading and the love of doing so a tradition that will become a legacy.