Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thanking the Moon by Grace Lin

Today's a pretty awesome day - the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival. I didn't know a whole lot about this festival before I read today's selection, but it's a very cool holiday. The specific date day varies from year to year, but generally it is the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, means it can fall during either September or October. The holiday is generally observed by Chinese families, but some other Asian peoples also take part, and the observation of this day began as a way to honor the completion of the harvest and the preparation for a new season. And the moon is a very central part of the whole holiday, since it is celebrated after the moon rises in the evening.

Sprout and I learned about this holiday by reading today's selection, Thanking the Moon by Grace Lin. We first read this book a couple of years ago, stumbling on it at the library and checking it out because, well, it's Grace Lin, and I'd read the phone book if she wrote (and illustrated) it. Sprout was quite taken, then and now, with the illustrations, which isn't a surprise if you've seen any of Lin's books. Her characters have an openness and an honesty about them that draws young children in. There's plenty of depth in her deceptively simple scenes, most of which center on some aspect of family life, making them a great choice for sharing with toddlers and preschoolers.

I love that Lin always honors domesticity and tradition in her books, and Thanking the Moon is similar in that regard. Being that it follows one family's observation of the Moon Festival, we learn a lot about how they prepare for the celebration - driving to the park at night, setting up a picnic of special food (mooncakes and pears, yum!), mounting the lanterns, pouring the tea. Oh, how much Sprout wants to climb into that picnic illustration where the family is gathered around eating mooncakes in the soft light of the golden lanterns. We both love the way the family thanks the moon for all its blessings, tangible and intangible alike. Lin's author note explains that the moon's fullness during the festival symbolizes wholeness and harmony - she drives that point home with a lovely spread at the end showing all the families who have come to observe the festival in the same fashion.

The central elements of Thanking the Moon are the kind I wish to deeply imbed in my son - peacefulness and harmony, gratefulness and calm. Reading this book together again this year reemphasized for me what a great thing it can be to introduce new cultural traditions into our lives, to make them that much richer. Tonight, with the blessing of clear skies, I think we'll be letting Sprout stay up just a little longer, that we might gaze up at the clear brightness of the moon together and rejoice in all the goodness we've been given, and all that's yet to come.

Thanking the Moon by Grace Lin, published by Alfred A. Knopf
Ages 3-6
Source: Library
Sample: "The mid-autumn moon glows in the sky. We go into the night to admire it."

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