A lesson in kindness shifts a child's perspective with lifelong implications in Pearl AuYeung's warm and reflective picture book debut, The Best Kind of Mooncake.
"Once upon a morning in Hong Kong, in the alley of Lee Tung Street," a listless girl passes another day at her family's store in the bustling marketplace. Today, though, a "thin, sweaty man" draws in listeners with his wailing journey of survival. The shopkeepers and hawkers turn away, bored with this familiar story--"Bah! We've all been there, brother." Later, over lunch, the child's mother notices the hungry man and prompts the girl to give him a mooncake, the very treat their mother had promised to give her and her brothers at the end of the day. Obediently but begrudgingly, the child delivers the double-yolked delicacy--"the best kind!"--and is appalled when the man "devoured the... mooncake in ONE GULP!" This act of kindness triggers an outpouring of help from other vendors, which, the girl's mother suggests, might be because "they remember that once upon a time, somebody helped them, too."
AuYeung's personal connection to this story is palpable, and an author's note explains it is based on true events in her family's past as Lee Tung Street shopkeepers. The first-person narrative is thoughtful and deliberate, and AuYeung creates through her digital illustrations an energetic, specific sense of place. The backmatter includes historical and family photographs as well as brief contextual background on Hong Kong's political history. Like a double-yolk mooncake, this tender-hearted and culturally specific nod to the golden rule should be best enjoyed by sharing. --Kit Ballenger, youth librarian, Help Your Shelf