Thanking the Moon

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Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival by Grace Lin

Join a Chinese-American family as they head out into the night to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.  They bring a night-time picnic and set up the moon-honoring table.  There are glowing lanterns and tea to drink.  There are also special mooncakes to munch.  Then everyone thanks the moon for bringing them together and make secret wishes.  This will have every child wishing that they could celebrate the Moon Festival too.

A gentle and simple story, Lin offers a glimpse of Chinese heritage in this picture book.  With just one or two lines of text per double page spread, she invites readers to the picnic and the celebration.  Her illustrations are jewel-toned and delightful.  She fills the night time sky with swirls and plays with other patterns throughout as well.  From the plate to the tea cups to clothing and lanterns, everything has a touch of pattern to catch the eye. 

This short, simple book concludes with some additional information on the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival that will answer any questions that readers may have.  Lin has once again created a book that is inviting, interesting and culturally fascinating.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House.

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The Properties of Water

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The Properties of Water by Hannah Roberts McKinnon

Released October 26, 2010

For Lace, the lake she has grown up living on has been an integral part of her childhood and her life.  All of the seasons of the lake, as well as the sounds and smells of it, are the background to her days.  When her older sister, Marni, is injured jumping into the lake from a height, Lace is unable to return to her beloved lake or even to the city’s swimming pool.  Lace works to continue having some order to her life, but her mother is hours away caring for her sister, her father is grieving himself, and her grandparents dart in and out of her summer.  There is the new family care giver, Willa Dodge, but Lace sees her as an invader and perhaps even a thief.  One happy part of her summer is that an older boy is paying attention to her.  As Lace faces her first summer without her older sister, she begins to realize that everything has changed and she can do very little to repair any of it.

Written with a clear voice, this book has lustrous prose that makes Lace’s struggles come beautifully to life. 

To show the author’s skill with words, I have to share one passage, though there were many to choose from:

He sinks on the bench beside me, and we sit, shoulder to shoulder, like two battered bookends holding up all the sadness in the world.  This time I put my arm around him, and Cinder wedges under the bench beneath us, his black fur collecting our tears like gemstones.

This is a book about grief and the horrible time when grieving seems like the wrong thing to be doing, but forward motion is impossible too.  It is the story of a loving, devoted family torn apart by an accident.  It is Lace’s story and the lake’s story.  It is about the power of nature, the horror of brain injury, and the healing powers of time and love (as well as a great dog). 

This very short book by today’s standards is a small jewel.  It is dazzling as it shows emotions so thoroughly that it is like readers are experiencing it themselves.  Her prose is deep and radiant, but never leaves a young reader puzzling.  Rather her images are taken straight from the world of the lake, of summer and of sadness.

Highly recommended, this book is a great choice for tweens who will understand everything that Lace is feeling.  Appropriate for ages 11-13.

Reviewed from ARC received from Farrar Straus Giroux.

Children’s Book Guild 2011 Nonfiction Award

The Children’s Book Guild has awarded the 2011 Nonfiction Award to Kathleen Krull. Author of nonfiction books that are such fun to read as well as well-researched and fascinating.  No one quite mixes the humor of life with nonfiction as Krull does.  I am looking forward to her new titles too!