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.

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.

#Fiction Friday: #Novelines from the Book

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No one from the LDS Church knew of the quickening of Patrick Nolan’s soul to the Spirit World.  It was the saddest, strangest day I had ever spent.

The funereal funeral was a secret affair.  No one knew Patrick Nolan had died—that Laurie Nolan had been living in mortal sin for 13 years.

Caitlin & I did as we were told, Caitlin, still grieving & I, taking no delight in what I had dreamt of for as long as my eyes had beheld the glory of David Dalton. 

In the B.C. era (before the Church), I had wanted Mother to marry David, but in this New Era, I realized 2 wrong people were trying to do the right thing.

The glories of the terrestrial & telestial heavens shined their pallid light upon us as David knocked on the pastor’s door, bearing redemption on the other side.

A baby grand sat in the corner of the room, the top of which sat a picture of Jesus.  For some reason, it made me think of a picture of a woman’s late husband.

Swiss clocks adorned the high walls, chiming ten, creating a clamor, signaling that the hour of reckoning had come.

To write one’s own vows was to promise more to one another than even God expected, & so it made sense that David & Mother had written their own.

We were to become a blended family, but our mixture would remain homogenous.

“David, when I think of you, I think of the guardian angel who came to us all those years before, bearing good tidings of great joy,” I said.

Truth is its own magic: A Mother’s Day message

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When you’re a mom, some of the things that come out of your mouth may sound strange:  “Don’t chew on Jesus,” “Will you just hurry up and poop?”, and “Stop putting chicken on your head!”, are some of my greatest hits.

As I was getting my daughter ready for bed the other night, thinking about what I wanted to read to her (praying she wouldn’t mention Minnie, as in The Mouse), the Beatitudes of Jesus came to mind.  I realized then that I’ve spent so much time reading and singing to her and teaching her the things she will need to know to get on here–like letters and numbers, saying “thank you” and not littering–that I hadn’t focused much on the religious part of her education.

Thinking back, that’s exactly how my parents raised me.  For them, church was something you needed if you were an ass.

When I was in high school in the nineties, a lot of kids were self-proclaimed “Jesus freaks,” wearing “True Love Waits” rings and WWJD bracelets.  There was a lot of talk about the rapture and born-again virginity.  Church was their social life, Praise and Worship music their vibe.  Some of them even carried their Bibles around at school.  

Just as Felicity (remember that WB show?) followed a boy to college, I, a freshman, followed a senior boy to his church.  One evening, after service had ended, we sat in a pew as he led me through the salvation prayer, and I was like, “That’s it?  Are you sure? It’s that easy?”

I had been expecting a feeling–a total transformation like Saul’s to Paul–and now I wonder when Jesus told Doubting Thomas that (and I paraphrase) blessed are they who don’t see but believe, that “see” could also apply to “feel.”

Four years later, I joined the Mormon Church.  All the good feelings I had expected to feel when I had gotten saved, I felt then, but who isn’t going to feel good when they’re around so many friendly people who open their hearts and homes?  Even though it’s been years since I sent my name to Salt Lake to be expunged (er, removed) from the records, I will admit that the Church made me a more spiritual person.

In the Church, I was taught that the glory of God is intelligence and yet, according to these same people, for those who had mental challenges, the devil could not touch them. 

To my understanding, a lack of mental capacity (e.g. intelligence) saved a soul.  It seems contradictory, and yet, it somehow makes sense to me.

As I gaze upon my child, I see that light and intelligence.  She knows so much more than she communicates, which can be frustrating, but I have learned to overcome the need to explain why she is the way she is to people who don’t know her–to explain why she doesn’t respond when people ask her her name–but then, I have had several people who’ve taken one look at her and ask if she’s autistic.

I may never know how much she understands, but I do know that I will teach her everything I know and believe, whether it’s that adverbs are the enemy of good writing or that respect doesn’t have to be earned but it can be lost.  (You don’t disrespect people until they “earn” your respect.)

I’ve striven so much to give her a magical childhood through imagination and storytelling.  (Children’s author, Nancy Tillman, is a master at this.)  Nearly every night, since my mom passed from this earth, I ask my daughter to tell Grandma “good-night” and “I love you” and to blow her a kiss.  And then I seemingly catch that kiss in midair, letting her open my hand and take it; sometimes I place my palm on the crown of her head–a blessing from Heaven.

Of course, I don’t really know how things work up there, but part of parenting, for me, has always been teaching truths with just a pinch of magic.

C.S. Lewis did that very thing with his Narnia series, just as I will someday do with mine.

#Fiction Friday: #Micropoetry from the Book

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For I learned of Mother’s life
by traveling backwards in time,
& with each trip,
the chasm between us grew wider,
so that she seemed so far removed from me.

Because Mother had been told her future,
her present had shaped it to fit the prediction—
the one that would put her at enmity with her daughter.

Their heaven was better than Baptist heaven,
their marriage, better than Methodist marriage,
for lovemaking did not end with earthly bodies,
but surpassed the thunder in the sky.

At the early morning hour,
Mother separated herself from her husband
by separating him from his life;
at the early evening hour,
she would civilly marry another man,
a man to whom she would be sealed celestially.

David had loved Mother for longer
than my father had known her,
honored her wishes by voicing not his own,
& cherished her as he cherished those
who came from her.

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #478: Impossible

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Bunny Blues

When Hannah Banana was appointed by her housekeeper
as the housekeeper for the Hopscotch Bunny family,
they were thereafter known as the Dust Bunnies
of Calico Critter town,
for none of the other toys saw
the invisible hands of the 5-year-old terror
who rocked their world
& left their loose groceries all over the porch,
making them look like a passel of hobos.

https://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/poetic-asides/wednesday-poetry-prompts-478