In 2016, I set a goal to read more diversely both to myself and aloud to my kids. As this year has unfolded, celebrating our differences has become more important than ever. 2016 has brought unspeakable tragedies born out of hate and ignorance – and the best way I know to fight those evils is to read books celebrating love and diversity. This month’s diverse kidlit choice is Thanking the Moon, by Grace Lin.
Thanking the Moon is a sweet, simple depiction of a Chinese-American family celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. The Moon Festival is traditionally a harvest festival that is celebrated in accordance with the lunar calendar – this year it fell on September 15th. Even though the festival date for 2016 is long past, Thanking the Moon seemed like a great pick for a month in which Americans celebrated our own harvest festival – Thanksgiving. As we talked about what we were grateful for in our own lives, I made sure to share with Peanut that there are other traditions that celebrate harvest festivals and holidays focusing on gratitude.
In Thanking the Moon, a family prepares to celebrate with a moonlight picnic.
They begin by unpacking their picnic hampers – stuffed with mooncakes and pomelo, among other treats – and setting up an honor table.
They also unpack festive decorations – including luminous lanterns.
And a young girl prepares tea for the family. Grace Lin is both the author and illustrator of this book, and I absolutely adore the loving lines of her illustrations. The sky is alive with swirls, the gold glimmers on the young girl’s blouse, and the tea looks good enough to drink right from the page.
The family sends the moon their message of thanks and their hopes for the year ahead – much like we, last week, reflected on the good things in our lives and our hopes for the future.
The final illustration in the book pans out to show the hillside full of families celebrating with picnic hampers, honor tables, mooncakes and tea of their own.
Even the endpapers of the book are exuberant, depicting a list of items for use in celebrating the Moon Festival. (I spy Asian pears – my favorite fruit!) Lin also helpfully includes a couple of pages of explanation of the Moon Festival holidays, for parents who don’t celebrate but wish to introduce their children to the holiday.
We have so enjoyed reading Thanking the Moon in this season of gratitude! It’s been a delight to point out the lovely illustrations and spend time discovering – together – a holiday about which neither Peanut nor I knew much before picking up the book. Lin is a phenomenally talented artist, and her charming illustrations make a perfect complement to the simple prose – no more is needed. After reading Thanking the Moon I did some online research and discovered that the little family depicted in the book also stars in other Grace Lin books about Chinese and Asian holidays. We’re definitely going to be checking those out!
What diverse books did you enjoy in November?