soup of the day: thanking the moon by grace lin

Hi there! So glad you’re here.

I’ve just poured some tea, and am anxious to tell you all about Newbery Honor winner Grace Lin’s brand new picture book, Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival (Knopf, 2010), which is officially out today!

If, like me, you’re a big fan of Grace’s previous picture books featuring the Lin family (Dim Sum for Everyone!, Kite Flying, Fortune Cookie Fortunes, Bringing in the New Year), then you’re in for a real treat. This time, the three winsome sisters and their parents are observing this important holiday with a special evening picnic!

As you may know, the Moon Festival is a time for families to come together and give thanks for a good year. It’s traditionally celebrated by the Chinese and other Asian peoples on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month (September 22nd this year). In this lovely, contemplative story, simply told and illustrated in deep gouache jewel tones, we observe each member of the family helping with picnic preparations.

In homage to the full harvest moon (symbol of wholeness and harmony), they place mooncakes and other round foods (pomelos, grapes, smiling steamed cakes, Asian pears) on the honor table. There’s also a rabbit statue, since a white rabbit supposedly lives on the moon. After warm tea is poured in round cups, they all sit down and feast on those “soft, sweet mooncakes.” Yum! Then, they thank the moon and send it their secret wishes. Carrying glowing paper lanterns, they join all the other picnickers on the lush green hillside, happy just to be together.

I love how the story begins on the title page, as the family drives up in their little red car. As you turn the pages, the moon gets closer and larger, and the sky gradually turns a darker shade of blue. Of course, the sky is decorated with Grace’s signature swirls, taking on added meaning as they echo the shape of the moon. And I love the adorable endpapers and varying perspectives, especially the big facial close-ups when Mei-Mei plays with a pomelo. An Author’s Note providing more details about the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival nicely rounds out this luminous and delicious offering, guaranteed to make everyone want to try a mooncake if they haven’t already, and have a nighttime picnic of their own.

Now, please join me in thanking Grace for this beautiful book. The alphabet soup kitchen helpers packed their own picnic basket, and are enjoying a newfound appreciation for the roundness of soup bowls. Let’s all slurp our congratulations, and come next Wednesday, remember to look up at the moon, express your gratitude for things little and large, and make a secret wish. No matter where you live, we all share the same sky.

Today’s Special: Autumn Swirl (a robust broth seasoned with moonlight).

To go with your soup, please help yourself to a tea-stained egg, just like the ones the Lin family had on their picnic:


Of course we must have some mooncakes,

   Mosaic from Eat-My-Heart-Out/flickr.

and some steamed sponge cakes:


If you still have room, an Asian pear would be nice:


And Cornelius prepared a platter of more round dessert goodies:

International Club of Dalian/flickr

Wow, what a feast! All that cool autumn air really stirs the appetite!

As soon as you can manage to roll off your picnic blanket, make your way to your local indie or click through to your fave online bookseller to order your very own copy of Thanking the Moon. If you go to a bricks and mortar store, why not present the salesclerk with your favorite round fruit, or smile at him/her and say the secret password: “pomelo.” Brave souls may wish to wear pomelo peels on their heads. Who knows? Anything can happen when there’s a full moon!

Happy Book Birthday, Grace! We love you!

THANKING THE MOON: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival
written and illustrated by Grace Lin
published by Alfred A. Knopf, September 2010
Picture book for ages 4-8, 32 pp.
Cool themes: Chinese Americans, holiday celebrations, families, Chinese traditions and folklore, thanksgiving, food
*Wonderful companion book to Bringing in the New Year!

♥ Be sure to visit Grace Lin’s official website to learn more about Thanking the Moon and all her other books. All this week, there are special Moon Festival posts at Grace’s personal blog, gracenotes, featuring fun activities and recipes.

♥ Grace will officially launch Thanking the Moon with a reading and booksigning at the Autumn Moon Family Festival on Sunday, September 19th at 12 noon. This is part of the day long event held at the Museum of Chinese in America, NYC.

*Spreads from Thanking the Moon posted by permission of the publisher, copyright © 2010 Grace Lin, published by Alfred A. Knopf/Random House. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved

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