A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin (9780316404488)
Little Star and her mother bake a big mooncake together. When her mother palces the cake in the sky to cool, she reminds Little Star not to touch it until she is told to. Little Star agrees. Little Star gets ready for bed and falls right to sleep, but she wakes up in the middle of the night thinking about the mooncake. She only takes a tiny nibble and then runs back to bed. Night after night, Little Star eats a little bit more of the mooncake until finally all that was left was a tiny pile of twinkling crumbs. There was only one thing to do… bake another one!
This is a beautiful tribute to the phases of the moon that tells the story in an original and modern way. There are tiny touches of a folklore format here, but nothing that formal. Instead the story embraces the reader, so one can almost taste the cake on your tongue. The text is simple and has a wonderful playfulness to it so that readers are in on Little Star’s midnight snacks along with her.
The illustrations are exceptional, mixing whimsy with realistic figures. Even with the first bite of the Big Mooncake, a trail of starlike crumbs are left behind. Little Star and her mother wear black pajamas covered in large yellow stars that blend into the dark backgrounds of the pages. Even the endpages are wonderful with tributes to the blue of the sky in the day, a clock that monitors the phases of the moon and milk that swirls into a galaxy when spilled.
A remarkable picture book from a gifted author and illustrator. Appropriate for ages 2-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Sweep by Jonathan Auxier (9780735264359)
Released September 25, 2018.
Nan Sparrow is one of the only girls working in London as a chimney sweep and she’s one of the best that ever climbed a chimney. She works for a brute of a master who pits her against the other top sweep, dangling an apprenticeship in front of them both. The work they do is dangerous with possible falls, and tight spaces where children can get trapped. Even skilled Nan can get stuck and one day that happens to her and the chimney is set ablaze. As she burns alive, Nan is rescued by a mysterious creature, a tiny char she has been carrying in her pocket that was left behind for her by the Sweep, a magical man who cared for her as a baby and child until he disappeared. Nan and her creature live together away from everyone since they all think she died in the fire. They build a family with one another until the time comes for Nan to stand up for chimney sweeps throughout London.
My goodness, this book is remarkable. I loved the London that Auxier has created for us with all of its Victorian charms. He peels away the charming veneer though and shows us the brutality of child labor, the dangers and the cruelty of chimney sweeping in particular. He blends his fantastic golem into this world, adding a fantasy element to a world that desperately needs some magic to brighten it. Without Charlie, the golem, this book would have been too hard and cold to bear. The same goes for the Sweep, who filled Nan’s early years with care and love.
Nan is a remarkable heroine who is witty, intelligent and caring. She has a wonderfully tough exterior that allows only a few people inside her real life. And yet, she gathers an amazing group of people who care for her and she for them. Throughout the book, Auxier warns readers that Charlie will be leaving eventually and readers will see him start to change through the story. Still, even with that warning, expect the heartbreak of the end of Charlotte’s Web as you read the final chapters. Have tissues at hand.
A new children’s classic that reveals the dark underworld of London and the incredible magic of making your own family, monsters and all. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Puffin Books.