Review: The Shadow in the Moon

“I tell my family I am thankful for them, especially wise Ah-Ma. Maybe even for my little sister.” page 27

The Shadow in the Moon: A Tale of the Mid-Autumn Festival by Christina Matula, illustrated by Pearl Law.
Charlesbridge, Watertown, Massachsetts, 2018.
Picture book fiction, 32 pages.
Lexile:  640L  .
AR Level:  not yet leveled
NOTE: I received a free copy of this book from the author as a part of the 2019 Multicultural Children’s Book Day, in exchange for an honest review.

The story of a young girl in the modern day celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival, including her grandmother’s telling of the traditional story of Chang’e and Hou Yi.

the shadow in the moon cover resized

Our family loves learning about different holidays.  We are Christian and American so you can guess that we celebrate Christmas and Fourth of July.  We’ve been lucky enough to access community gatherings or have friends invite us to many other celebrations, including the Lunar New Year.  But none of us had ever heard of the Mid-Autumn festival before.

Looking for other books on the topic, I could only find a half-dozen books about this specific festival, some of which didn’t have reviews.  There were two by big-name authors – both Grace Lin and Amy Tan have written picture books on the topic.  All of which is a rather lengthy notice that this is a welcome addition to our holiday bookshelf, and sorely needed.

Our unnamed first person narrator and her younger sister are celebrating the Mid-Autumn festival.  Their grandmother, referred to both as grandmother and Ah-ma, tells a story about Chang’e, the lady on top of the mooncakes.

the shadow in the moon p16-17 resized
Hou Yi and Chang’e hide the potion of immortality on pages 16 and 17 of The Shadow in the Moon.

This is one of those books that can be difficult to classify.  The framing tale is fictional, but I would classify the retelling of the story of Chang’e and Hou Yi in nonfiction if it were by itself.  I lean towards fiction but depending on your collection, don’t hesitate to classify it under folklore if that will draw more readers.

I’m a sucker for intergenerational stories, especially ones that include a grandmother, and love retellings (even though in this case I wasn’t familiar with the original).  There were a few great little moments in this brief story,  like the little sister’s head sticking out from under the table, asleep, as the narrator contemplates whether she’s thankful for her obnoxious younger sibling.

We all have been drawn to the cover.  It looks like this is Pearl Law’s first major children’s book illustration, but her style is appealing.  The pages are accurate without being overly detailed and the characters draw you in.  Although the art is very different, it reminded me a bit of our favorite Julie Flett, in the bold style and bright color choices.

the shadow in the moon p6-7 resized
Ah-ma starts her story on pages 6 and 7 of The Shadow in the Moon.

Most of the page spreads have a paragraph, maybe two, of text, and the illustrations are so bold and colorful that they held the children’s attention well.  The introductory page is only two sentences, and the page with the transition into Ah-ma’s story has more text than most.  Otherwise the balance worked nicely for reading aloud.  The end has a short author’s note, and a recipe for Mooncakes with Red-Bean Filling.

This has a few applications.  Of course, it would make a good read around the Mid-Autumn Harvest, or during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in May.  But I think it would also be a good addition to a unit on the the moon, as a reminder that moon lore, like constellations, varies around the world.  Recommended.


Have you heard of the Mid-Autumn Festival before?  Keep an eye on the blog because I’ll be back with more about this celebration later this year.


Author: colorfulbookreviews

I work in a library by day and parent the rest of the time. I am passionate about good books representing the full spectrum of human diversity for every age group and reading level. This blog is my attempt to help parents, educators, and librarians find the best children's books authored by or featuring characters of color.

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