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The Moon Lady


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On a rainy afternoon, a woman shares with three restless granddaughters her ``earliest memory'' from her childhood in China. Adapted from Tan's The Joy Luck Club , the haunting tale that unfolds is worthy of retelling--and of repeated rereading. The narrator, Ying-ying, recalls waking up at the age of seven on the morning of the Moon Festival; it was a steamy day, and ``the sun drove rays through the bamboo curtains like knives.'' Filled with similarly vivid images, Tan's lilting text conveys Ying-ying's contagious excitement about the festivities. These include the appearance of the Moon Lady, who can fulfill one's secret wish. Later, celebrating with her family on a ``floating teahouse,'' Ying-ying loses her balance and falls into the lake, where she is caught in a fisherman's net. He returns her to shore, where her secret wish is granted: she is found by her family, and thus learns a lesson about which kind of wishes come true. Tan has done a superb job of distilling this incident for young readers, who will be as mesmerized by the expressive narrative as by Schields's ornately detailed paintings, ablaze with luminous color. Ages 6-up. ( Sept. )

Gr 4-6-- This is a reworking of a story from the author's adult novel, The Joy Luck Club (Putnam, 1989). Here it is set in the frame of a grandmother regaling her three granddaughters on a rainy afternoon with a tale from her childhood. On the evening of the Moon Festival, she is separated from her family, and goes through several fascinating and scary adventures until she is finally reunited with them. Tan has a good tale here, and she retells it well for children: while the story is in progress, it is told from the child's point of view; at beginning and ending frames, the grandmother's voice is used. The illustrations are an integral part of this version and can best be described as phantasmagorical or Chinese baroque. They are extremely detailed, providing both accurate cultural detail of the period (the tale is set somewhere in the two decades after the fall of the Qing Dynasty, i.e., the 1920s or '30s) and a child's romantic imaginings. Primary colors reign in the 12 sumptuous full-page pictures, as well as in the smaller vignettes that pepper and punctuate the narrative. A successful collaboration of compelling text and absorbing illustrations that will make young readers crave more. --John Philbrook, San Francisco Public Library

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