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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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.

Poem-a-Day April 2019 Writer’s Digest Challenge #26. Theme: Evening #aprpad

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Thursday Evening

Her evenings were spent
not shuttling her child
to practice or lessons
or herself to the next job
but eating a home-cooked dinner
prepared by her husband,
watching “Wheel of Fortune,”
reading and singing to her daughter
and asking her the questions
only she could answer
but could not,
for her little girl
was a brightly-colored door
with a panel of frosted glass
that was shatter-proof
and a lock that was foolproof.
Sometimes this mom went to an event,
and sometimes she made it to the Y,
for she believed in getting your money’s worth
out of a gym membership,
not a buffet.
She was an anxious person,
understanding that just as some drank
to silence the voices,
she sometimes had to take a pill
to silence the stories–
a temporary solution to
“Writers’ Flow.”
She tried to remember to tell Jesus
to let her mom know she said, “Hi,”
but sometimes she forgot–
just as she forgot if she shampooed her hair
until she squeezed the green gel
known as Prell
into her hand
and her muscle memory kicked in.
She’d put the clothes in the dryer
and forget to turn it on,
take something out of the oven
and forget to turn it off.
She’d try to tamp down her anxiety
when having to watch a movie
without closed-captioning,
feeling mentally exhausted
trying to piece together
what she did hear.
Maybe being able to see the words
was why she had become a writer
and why,
when the hustle-bustle of the day
died down
and her little girl had been put down
for the night,
she could lose herself in all the words
she could not see.

https://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/poetic-asides/2019-april-pad-challenge-day-26

Poem-a-Day April 2019 Writer’s Digest Challenge #25. Theme: Exile #aprpad

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A Mom’s Exile

The bathroom:
my dad’s study hall growing up
& my reading nook now–
because going to the bathroom is boring.
If I want to escape with chocolate
without having to share
or wax my underarms (armpits sound nasty)
without an audience,
I go (not skip) to the loo,
leaving evidence of the latter
in the lavender-scented trashbags as proof to my husband
that women have a higher tolerance for pain.
I can soak for an hour,
brainstorming so hard,
you can hear the thunder & see the lightning
if you look & listen close enough,
but don’t get too close
unless I need you to bring me my tweezers.

2019 April PAD Challenge: Day 25

Childhood Memories: A Father’s Day Message

(top left):  1981:  My dad and mom, with a new me.  (top right):  1953:  My grandfather, Joseph York, with my mom.  I always thought Joe looked just like Billy Graham.  (middle right):  Circa early 1970’s:  A trio of Booker dads:  My dad, Phil (Phillip Wayne), his dad, Paul Whitaker, and my uncle Bill (Paul William).  It had been Grandma’s idea to give them all the initials P.W.  (bottom):  The father of my child, on the night she was born.

This morning, as I let my daughter press the button on our coffee machine, I was reminded of all the times when I was about her age, growing up in Rota, Spain, when my dad would let me press the button on the bean grinder (ground being unavailable). Maybe that’s why java’s lusty aroma always makes me smile.

I never knew why the grinder was always on the floor (near a self-portrait of Albrecht Durer framed in “gold,” leaning against a closet), but now I know that it was so I could be a part of the process (if not a consumer of the product).

And that’s partly what parenthood–be it motherhood or fatherhood–is all about:  Taking the time with your children.

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When I found out I was going to have a baby, it took me a while to realize that my parents’ example had given me all the tools I needed to be a good mom, for we learn how to parent from our parents (whether good or bad), just as they learned from theirs.

A man learns how to be a father from having one.

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From my dad, I learned that you can survive horrendous cooking (so long as it errs on the side of overcooked), that you can put up with a lot of crap from another person because they put up with a lot of crap from you, and that good acting isn’t using four-letter words and taking your clothes off.

But the greatest lesson learned was that I was just as valuable for being born a girl as my brother was for being a born a boy.

*

As for the father of my child, I can do what I do (go to school to better myself so that I can better our financial situation) because he does what he does (be a stay-at-home dad)—just as my dad supported my mom when she decided to join the military.

That’s what being a husband is sometimes: Not “letting” your wife do whatever she wants but supporting her so that she can feel good about doing what she needs.

 

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #331, Theme: Pushy

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A Parent’s Wish

You thought I was pushy,
but it was only because no one
ever pushed me.

They thought I was
the sun, moon, and stars,
the very best of them,
fused together—
a celestial trinity.

They saw my potential,
figuring my success
was a foregone conclusion—
that it was written in the stars,
for the sun rose and set on me,
the rare blue moon that I was.

I see that same potential in you;
I just want you to realize it sooner,
so that you,
as every parent wishes,
will outpace them.

Descriptive showing (and telling)

Hannah's rattle and brush

Tomorrow is Hannah’s six-month mark, and we’re celebrating with fresh mashed avocado (I will be making all my own baby food).  Somehow, making her whole day a learning experience by weaving it into the fabric of life seems less stressful than trying to carve out a particular time to read or sing to her (which I will still do when I can work it in).  Even though she doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to me, who knows what she’s absorbing?  I look forward to being more interactive with her.

This whole subject has become a Facebook conversation.  My one friend says, “…You rub her arm, hand, back of a hand and say “the pretty blue cloth is so soft.”  “Mommy is going to make you some dinner.  I am going to chop up some pretty green grapes, mash a yellow banana.”  Explain, use descriptive words.  She is absorbing every little thing around her right now.  Live a narrative life.  And she will learn to be a narrative person.  Lay on the floor with her and tell her how you see her moving her right arm, left leg and how she is laying on her tummy and her neck is so strong.  Touch the parts you are saying…”  Another person on my friend list is saying, “Let her absorb her own world, don’t interrupt it with constant chatter. She has a brain that is unique to her observations. Just be there and love her. kids love the outdoors, toys, bubble baths, having fun.”

As for me, I will just do my best to strike the right balance between the two.  I am used to just being natural (which is why I didn’t last long at Walgreen’s after they started having us go by a script when it came to answering the telephone or checking people out).  I feel like I am my wittiest and shine the most when I am just being myself.  For the sake of my daughter’s development, I am going to step out of my comfort zone a bit.  Whatever my approach, I will NEVER be like the mom in this commercial:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XomEA2ChjeE