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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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

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.

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #481: Writer

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Ann M. Martin

Her books were a beloved part of my girlhood.
I remember she loved “I Love Lucy”
& looked like a schoolteacher–
that is, if Ellie Walker from “The Andy Griffith Show”
had taken Helen Crump’s place
before “Helen the Grump” had been written into existence.
I remember thinking her middle name just had to be Marie
because it fit her “That Girl” appearance.
I remember thinking that it must be the greatest job in the world
for one’s books to be adored by little girls all around the world.
I remember thinking of myself as an honorary Baby-Sitters Club member–
the one you never read about but existed nevertheless–
for I wasn’t shy around these girls.  
As I read her bio now,
I learn that she taught autistic children (I teach my own),
that she loved Roald Dahl
& wrote for her college newspaper,
that math was her least favorite subject
& that her fourth-grade teacher (third for me)
told her that she was a wonderful writer.
I think that maybe I liked this lady–
what little I knew from her blurb in the back all those years ago–
because I saw myself in her,
or saw in her,
what I hoped I might
someday become.

https://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/poetic-asides/wednesday-poetry-prompts-481

Poem-a-Day April 2019 Writer’s Digest Challenge #18. Theme: Little (Blank) #aprpad

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Little Memories

It was last night
that I read the last work
that would be published
in my alma mater’s literary journal.
Brian and Hannah had joined me–
along with my dad and grandmother
who we call Bernadean
because she’s not all “grammy-like.”
My English and Communications friends were there,
my old college newspaper friends–
except for the ones who’d graduated and moved on–
were there to cover the event
in the room where my daughter saw
trapezoids and triangles in the ceiling.
I’d worn my new little black dress—
well, let’s be real,
not little—
but it showed the shoulders
I had been expected to cover
in my past life as a Mormon.
My daughter was showing off or rather,
I was showing off my daughter in her new bob
that makes her look like Scout Finch
and white dress with the red ribbon straps
that kept slipping down.
Still better her have a wardrobe malfunction than me.
My dad and grandmother were late
but just in time to see one of the artists’ photographs
of his topless girlfriend projected on the screen
and for Dad to hear one of the poets use the f-word,
which I knew he would complain about later.
I break out in hives all over my chest when I read,
but I chose to ignore them,
for that was better than sweating profusely.
Hives don’t give you B.O.
There were “decadent desserts”
with all different toppings;
I wasn’t fooled,
for they were all brownie bites
but “elevated” as the TV chefs would say.
I was asked for a quote by the kid
who only wanted to write reviews
because he just enjoys writing his opinions.
Yes, I tell him, I really am obsessed with Mother Goose
(and, off the record, ablaut reduplication).
Hannah got to watch and listen to one of the artists play his guitar.
Everyone was so kind.
The event was held in a room off the art gallery on campus,
and we saw a man’s bust made of pennies,
which made me think that Mike Brady’s head
wouldn’t have shattered had it been made of change.
I still had to make cornbread
(hoecakes were too much work–
I couldn’t just shove them in the oven
and forget about them for a half hour)
for a “Cooking on a Dime” event at work tomorrow—
the college where I work because I loved it so much,
I didn’t want to leave.
We got our Easter ham,
and then Dad wanted to take us out
for half-priced milkshakes after 8 at Sonic.
Tons of kids were there for the same reason.
I had to lend Hannah my white sweater wrap
and make her look like an old lady in a shawl.
I got chocolate
but without malt,
what good is it?
I gave Hannah my cherry,
and Dad gave me his.
We joked about how Mom
who doesn’t live on Earth anymore
would embarrass my brother
by asking for “thick shakes” and “hot fries”
because damn it,
she was paying good money for this crap.
It’s nice to be able to talk about her without crying.
And then we go to our homes,
me to mine,
where I read Green Eggs and Ham,
and I told this little girl with the big blue eyes
that until I met her dad,
mushrooms had been my Green Eggs and Ham
when he fried them like we do everything here.
Right then and wherever there was,
I fell in love with fungi candy.
And I write all this now
while it’s still fresh
because new memories are constantly being made,
and I don’t want to lose this one.

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https://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/poetic-asides/2019-april-pad-challenge-day-18

Poem-a-Day April 2019 Writer’s Digest Challenge #3. Theme: Animal #aprpad

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When Words Hurt

He was a party animal,
she, a wallflower he plucked
from a garden
crawling 
with bookworms.
When she threw the book at him
for disturbing her peace,
he ended up reading it,
for the bump that
My In-Law is an Outlaw
had left on his frontal lobe
had made him forget himself.

https://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2019-april-pad-challenge-day-3