cover image Mooncakes


Loretta Seto, illus. by Renné Benoit. Orca, $19.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4598-0107-3

Seto’s children’s book debut is set during the Moon Festival, a summer festival celebrated by Chinese families with candlelit paper lanterns, moon viewing, mooncakes, and storytelling. A first-person narrative from a small girl describes her family’s practices in the present tense: “Soon there will be mooncakes to eat, sweet and chewy.... They make a circle for me and Mama and Baba. They make a circle for my family.” Benoit (The Secret of the Village Fool) paints quiet, shell-pink and wisteria-tinted watercolors of the girl and her family cuddled under moonlit trees. Embedded in the story are three Chinese folktales that the contemporary family listens to: a cruel tyrant chases his wife until she escapes to a castle in the sky, a lazy woodcutter chops at a cinnamon tree that never dies, and a rabbit offers himself up as a meal to three hungry magicians. Benoit paints these stories’ characters in traditional dress, alternating with delicious close-ups of the food the contemporary family eats. An overall sense of magic and possibility is more than enough to temper the folktales’ slightly dark moments. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)