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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Great Children's Books for the Moon Festival

With the Mid-Autumn, or Moon, Festival just a little over a week away, I thought I'd share with y'all some of my favorite childrens' picture and story books about this holiday. I have to admit, this is not like Chinese New Year, where there are a plethora of books to choose from. Still, these are the Tongginator's and my favorite books from the few available.

Chinese Feasts & Festivals: A Cookbook by S.C. Moey. Part Two of this book details major holidays, such as the Mid-Autumn Festival, within the Chinese culture by including the folk tale or story most closely associated with the holiday, as well as essential dishes families customarily cook with each holiday. The illustrations and holiday stories appeal to young readers, but a word of warning that the recipes are not child-friendly, although the cookbook is quite functional for adults. Still, I'm sure y'all can guess that it's my little Food Network addict's current favorite!

Lin Yi's Lantern by Brenda Williams. A Chinese boy heads to the local market to purchase much-needed supplies for his family's Mid-Autumn Festival celebration. His mother warns him that he must bargain carefully so that he has enough money left over to purchase his much desired red rabbit lantern. Unfortunately the boy's money runs out and he is forced to make a difficult choice between a gift for his uncle and the red rabbit lantern he's coveted for weeks. He decides to focus on his uncle's desires, and is rewarded for his selflessness with a special, surprise gift. Gorgeous gouache illustrations and a sweet story make this book worth reading. This definitely makes our top three!

Mei-Ling in China City by Icy Smith. This story book best suited for older elementary students transports readers back in time to World War II era America. Preteen Mei-Ling corresponds with her friend Yayeko, who was forcibly relocated with her family to a Japanese internment camp. Through the girls' letters, readers come to learn of the harshness of the War Relocation Camp at Manzanar, while also following along with Mei-Ling as she wanders the streets of Los Angeles, preparing for the upcoming Moon Festival, and selling opera tickets and American flags to raise money for war relief efforts in China. Younger readers will focus on the holiday descriptions and the friendship between the two girls, while the book gently prompts older readers to explore the relationships between different ethnic groups during WWII.

Moonbeams, Dumplings and Dragon Boats by Nina Simonds. This treasury of Chinese holiday tales, activities and recipes is an essential book for all families who celebrate Chinese holidays. It includes sections focusing on Chinese New Year and the Lantern Festival, Qing Ming, the Dragon Boat Festival and, of course, the Moon Festival. The chapter specific to the Mid-Autumn Festival includes a general description of the holiday, the folk story of Chang E and Hou Yi, recipes for both Five-Treasure Moon Cakes and Rabbit-in-the-Moon Cookies, as well as directions for creating shadow puppets. This book is an essential resource for our family all year long!

Moon Festival by Ching Yeung Russel. Dramatic oil paintings accompany an autobiographical story about one child's wish that Chang Er will reunite her with her parents, who live far away. In China, the moon is a symbol of reunion, and this story emphasizes the connection we feel with loved ones who may live far away, but still look at the same moon at which we gaze. The stunning illustrations portray families gathered for worship, children dancing in the street during the holiday and one child's dream.

The Moon Lady by Amy Tan. Ms. Tan reworks a story from her adult novel The Joy Luck Club to make it suitable for elementary-aged children. A grandmother shares with her three granddaughters (Maggie, Lily and June) her long-ago adventure on the night of the Moon Festival. This gorgeously illustrated book not only provides details about the holiday celebration, it also reinforces family bonds, details what is considered proper and improper behavior in early 20th century China and helps young readers learn the lesson "be careful what you wish for." As with most books authored by Amy Tan, this one makes our top three, although I believe younger children might lack the attention span for it.

Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival by Grace Lin. Okay, so I'll be honest... I haven't actually seen this brand-new book quite yet, but I pre-ordered it from Amazon, which tells you how much I trust the author/ illustrator Grace Lin. Her books make every list I create that deal specifically with Chinese culture. I know this book will not disappoint me... I hope it does not disappoint you either. According to the School Library Journal, Lin's newest creation introduces the Moon Festival holiday in the style of her Chinese New Year book Bringing In the New Year. I just know this one will move into our top three once I read it!

Thank You, Mei-Ling by Linda Talley. This didactic story blends the tale of a duck sadly in need of etiquette lessons with information about the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. Mei-Ling the duck learns how to be polite as she accompanies a young boy named Song Hai while he travels from shop to shop, purchasing supplies for his family's festival celebration. As Song Hai buys fruits that are round like the moon, a paper lantern, mooncakes, rose flower incense, a Moon Palace poster and special tea, Mei-Ling the duck learns how to speak politely, show respect for the elderly and to share.

To Share One Moon by Ruowen Wang. This story of a young Chinese family's immigration to Canada is told through the eyes of Niu Niu, a young girl devastated to lose her nanny, who remained behind in China, and later her mother, who eventually leaves Canada to return to her high-powered job in China. The story begins in China, on the night of the Autumn Moon Festival and ends one year later, when Niu Niu finds comfort in the full moon, knowing that no matter how far apart, loved ones think of each other when they look up to the moon everyone shares. Although this book is geared for elementary-aged children, it does contain somewhat adult themes (separation from family, loss); however, I still felt it appropriate to include since the sense of loss described parallels the loss some adoptees feel during this holiday.

We See The Moon by Carrie Kitze. This adoption-specific book is excellent to read during the Moon Festival, since the holiday focuses on thinking of loved ones who are separated by distance. Its simple, yet evocative words address both the joy and sadness of adoption. We See The Moon opens the door for an adoption dialogue with even the youngest of children, using gentle questions that can spark discussion with those developmentally and emotionally ready to delve deeper on a personal level, while still allowing other children permission to quickly move through the story, should they wish to do so.

(You may also want to check your local library to see if they have two books that are no longer in print: Rabbit Mooncakes by Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer and Dragon Kite of the Autumn Moon by Valerie Reddix.)

It's also a common custom to read Chinese poetry together as a family on the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival. We've found several "moon poems" on-line, but also read selections from Maples in the Mist by Minfong Ho (the poems Moon and Quiet Night, both penned by poet Li Bai) and Chinese and English Nursery Rhymes by Faye-Lynn Wu (pages 28-31).

What are your favorites as a family for the Mid-Autumn Festival?


Buckeroomama said...

I knew I could count on you for a list of good books about the Mid-Autumn Festival! J came home today and said, "We have to get ready. It's almost Chinese New Year." We so need the books right now. Heh.

Desiree' said...

well, in MI we used to go to the FCC fesitval. It was huge with a puppet show and everything. Now here in VA, as you know nothing...so frustrating. This year it so happens to fall on DD 4 year family day so we are going to see the Chinese acrobats and then a late dinner. (front row!!)

Amanda - RunToTheFinish said...

Hey melodie!! The towels you were looking for are called chill towels... I've been using them still, but have to admit they aren't as cold as I would like. I think putting them in the fridge first is supposed to make a bigger difference

prechrswife said...

We are actually going to be able to attend the gathering with our local unofficial FCC group this year. It just hasn't worked out for us in the past couple of years. Thankfully, the timing works better this time. :-)

Aunt LoLo said...

Looks like you're all set!! MaMa won't be here this year, so Myrnie and I are planning a little party for our four kidlets. A little rice, a little mooncake, a little fruit...and a lot of fun. *grin*

jeanette said...

thanks for these recommendations! I was just looking at the calendar last night and thought ~we need to get to the local Chinese market this week for supplies for the festival. :)

Stefanie said...

GREAT list!
You should re-post this over at NHBO... would ya?!?
Or could I?

Kristi said...

Hey book lady ~ THANKS!!! A few I already knew about, but there were several I didn't.
Gotta get to my library and book store pronto!

Gail said...

Thanks for sharing these TM...we have a few of them, but always like to get a few new ones!

We were in China adopting Grace during the Autumn Moon Festival and it was lovely. This time of the year always reminds me of our trip.

Sarah said...

I must say, I've never had a mooncake that I've liked... but I think I've just had red bean and lotus ones. This year I placed an order for pineapple moon cakes and hope I like them a little better. I appreciate the artestry of a mooncake. Just wish they tasted better. I've been buying moon pies instead lately for the holiday!

Here's the link to the etsy shop where I've ordered pineapple mooncakes for this year. Check out the cause! Doesn't this sound like a great mentoring program? http://www.etsy.com/shop/mamnonshop

a Tonggu Momma said...

Umm... Amanda? My name is not Melodie. Are you a spammer or are you just thinking I'm someone else? *grin*

Asianmommy said...

Wow--what a great list of books. Thanks for sharing.

Goosegirl said...

Thanks for the list. I need to get some new books for Ahnalin!