A Big Mooncake for Little Star

by on December 21st, 2018

A Big Mooncake for Little Star This week’s Mock Caldecott title is Grace Lin’s, “A Big Mooncake for Little Star” . Grace Lin is a well known author and activist in the kidlit world.  She runs a site and podcast called Kidlit Women  in which she interviews prominent creators, editors and researchers about gender issues in kidlit. Most of her work revolves around Asian-American culture and it is clear through her interviews and Tedx Talk that creation, for her, has been a process of reclamation of her own heritage.

Little Star diverges from her previous endeavors artistically, and in doing so offers up a different piece of Lin’s heritage that she is reclaiming. This time, however, it’s not just for herself, but also for her own Little Star to whom she dedicates the book.

 

Image result for all-american girl the art of coles phillips

Set on deep, true black pages, Lin adopts an art style popularized in the early 1900’s by USA artist, Coles Philips, the fadeaway woman.  When I heard her speak about this choice at the ALSC National Institute, she showed a photo of one of her books from art school: “All-American Girl, The Art of Coles Phillips”. Another artist that she draws from is Robert McCloskey, specifically his Caldecott Honor book, “Blueberries for Sal”.  Lin also spoke about an exhibit at the Eric Carle Museum she and her daughter attended in 2016, “Americana on Parade: The Art of Robert McCloskey”.

A Big Mooncake for Little Star

 

The endsheets for Little Star, where mother and daughter are baking the giant Mooncake, forge a clear link to Sal’s kitchen in McCloskey’s endsheets. Astute readers will also notice many links to celestial bodies throughout this kitchen.

Related image

Now, as I’ve mentioned before, previous works by an author and works by other authors are not to be discussed or considered when looking at titles for Caldecott. But, I feel it is safe to say that those on the committee would recognize and see these references to prominent, male, American artists, even if they can’t talk about it.

Little Star is a divergence from Lin’s recognizable style. Somehow the inky black pages, combined with Lin’s spatial ingenuity, manage to convey a sense of depth and breadth while also feeling comforting and close. Lin uses diagonal movement through this blackness to create tension and to convey time. She sets this diagonal trajectory into motion at the beginning of the title, when the mother puts the mooncake in the sky to cool.

We see Little Star remember the big mooncake then look to where the mooncake is cooling in the sky, wondering if it’s still there. When she creeps to the mooncake, the words “Pat / pat / pat” are displayed, ever decreasing in size and making a downward trajectory, showing the care and time Little Star is taking to get to the mooncake without detection. Then with ease, Lin manages to make this same diagonal movement convey the speed and carefree manner with which “Little Star flew back to bed”.

It is clear from the outset–especially from the constellations found within the kitchen and the wrap around cover under the dust jacket–that Little Star and her mother are more than just a typical mother-daughter pair. This comes to fruition visually in a beautiful spread showing Little Star nibbling at the mooncake every night.Image result for a big mooncake for little star

Grace Lin, in turning aesthetics from famous, male, US artists, and elements of tales about the often male-portrayed moon, on their heads, has created a truly distinguished, female-centric, and empowering original folktale. I adore reading this book aloud, and could gush about how beautiful it is for the foreseeable future. Instead, I’ll leave you with a link to Grace Lin’s blog where you can find a downloadable reader’s theater script, some craft ideas, and learning extensions for Little Star.

If you think “A Big Mooncake for Little Star” is the most distinguished picture book of 2018 be sure to vote for it in this year’s ICPL Mock Caldecott by January 21st.

 

Leave a Reply