Taking a bite out of the night sky
BookPage Children's Top Pick, September 2018
Grace Lin fans know that the moon is a common subject in her work. The Newbery Honor-winning author and illustrator pays tribute to this celestial sphere once again in her latest picture book, A Big Mooncake for Little Star. In this modern folktale, wordless endpapers depict a mother and her daughter, Little Star, baking a giant mooncake—a Chinese treat usually made for the Mid-Autumn Festival.
As the story opens, Mama places the Big Mooncake up into the night sky to cool and reminds her daughter not to touch it. Little Star heeds her mother and gets ready for bed, but when she wakes in the middle of the night, she only remembers the delicious Big Mooncake in the sky and not her mother’s words. Who wouldn’t want a nibble? Night after night, Little Star sneaks tiny bites, and the cake slowly disappears to mirror the phases of the moon. When Mama notices that there’s nothing left but “a trail of twinkling crumbs,” she leads Little Star into the kitchen to bake another cake.
Lin’s vibrant gouache paintings are a stellar fit for this story. The luminous mooncake and the stars from the girl and her mother’s matching star pajamas glow against the book’s black background. As in many of her previous picture books, Lin offers clever visual treats: a clock adorned with small phases of the moon; a tipped bottle of milk spilling its contents in a spiral pattern; and Little Star’s bedtime book, which readers will recognize as one of Lin’s previous folktale retellings.
Whether you’re celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival or putting little ones to bed, this is a gentle, beautiful book for all.
This article was originally published in the September 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.