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Notes from a Children's Librarian: The Mooncake Festival

Book Cover The Shadow in the Moon

In mid-autumn, while the moon is at its biggest and brightest, East and Southeast Asian families come together and celebrate the Moon or Mooncake Festival to give thanks for the harvest. Lanterns are hung to symbolize the path to good fortune and mooncakes—round crusted pastries usually filled with red bean or lotus seed paste—are eaten.

This book list includes different versions of Chang’e, who is the lady and spirit of the moon, and also a fable about lanterns.

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In The Shadow in the Moon, by Christina Matula, illustrated by Pearl Law, Ah-ma tells her granddaughter the tale of how the shadow of the lady came to be trapped in the moon. Long ago, the earth was being scorched from the ten suns dancing in the sky, and so Hou-Yi, an archer, shot down nine of them. The immortals rewarded him with a potion for eternal life in the sky, but—understanding its power—Hou-Yui and his wise wife, Cheng’e, hide the potion. Later while Cheng’e is home alone, however, a thief breaks in and demands the potion, and Cheng’e drinks it to prevent him from stealing it. Hou-Yi comes home to find his wife trapped in the moon and forever pays tribute to her by staring up at her and serving her favourite round cakes.

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Shelf Talkers: Read Your Way to a Relaxed Thanksgiving

There’s a hard truth that people are, rightly, reluctant to discuss: Thanksgiving can be something of a mixed bag.
Sure, it’s a long weekend, right when we need it most. With summer but a distant memory and the routines of the fall starting to weigh heavily upon us a three-day weekend, with its promise of a good dinner and some relaxed time with those closest to us, seems like the answer to the early autumn ennui.
But those three days can quickly turn from warm and relaxed to intense and overscheduled. Juggling timelines, fretting over details, sweating over an unexpected intensity...and that’s just cooking your turkey dinner!

To counter this, it’s important to remember the meaning of the day: this is an opportunity to slow down and consider the blessings in our lives. To be, well, thankful.

This weekend, take some time for yourself. Take some time for self-care. Take some time to unplug, to unplan, to sequester yourself away. A few hours can make a world of difference, not just to the day, but to the coming weeks as well. Take a holiday from your holiday.

And why not plan a family trip to a local independent bookstore, followed by an afternoon of quiet reading? No screens, no pressure, just a good book, for everyone.

Canada's independent booksellers have a few recommendations to help with your holiday within your holiday. And if you want more suggestions, just ask: there’s nothing a bookseller likes more than recommending a beloved book.

Except maybe turkey. Though that …

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Shelf Talkers: Thanksgiving 2017 Edition

Gratitude.

It seems like such a small thing, doesn’t it? Aren’t most of taught, from our earliest days, to say thank you? To be grateful?

It’s not that easy, though. And it’s more important than we had ever imagined.

As we gather, this week, for a national day of gratitude, tucking into our turkey (or turkey substitute), it’s worth noting that not only have the vast majority of spiritual and religious traditions long endorsed the significant benefits of gratitude, but Forbes magazine, of all places, has also come aboard, recognizing seven scientifically proven benefits of gratitude, including health benefits, better sleep, and greater mental strength.

And if Forbes has been writing about it, there must be something to it, right?

If you don’t already have a practice for gratitude, why don’t you try this with me: this weekend, before you dig in, take a moment to really experience gratitude, to give thanks (even silently) for the good things in your life.

One thing that I’m thankful for (and I’m sure I’ve said it before), is that every month I get to spend some virtual time with some of Canada’s finest independent booksellers. I spent more than two decades of my life on the weary side of retail, and this column allows me to keep in touch with a part of my life I miss more than I was expecting to.

Plus, they always recommend such great books.

This month I asked, in a fairly general way, for our booksellers to talk about a book or author they were grateful for. Here …

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Shelf Talkers: Thanksgiving 2015 Edition

The experts say (well, let’s put “experts” in quotation marks here—the “experts” in the Self-Help section say) that an understanding and expression of gratitude in our daily lives is one of the keys to greater happiness and a more thorough sense of well-being in our own existence.

It’s a good suggestion, and likely a valuable process, but an ongoing sense of gratitude is something I have never quite been able to integrate into my generally more cynical days.

Which is why, every year, I find myself looking forward to Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving, in Canada, is one of the most peculiar of national holidays: it’s not drawn from any particular religious tradition, it doesn’t really mark any historical event, it’s just ... there. The second Monday of every October, an opportunity to give thanks, to quote the official 1957 proclamation that created the occasion, for “the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.”

Because of Thanksgiving’s peculiarity, it’s become a very personal holiday for many, myself included. Certainly, there are cultural traditions (I’ve been counting down to the first dinner of “A Turkey Dinner Every Month!” season for six weeks or so), but for many people, the Thanksgiving weekend is a chance to celebrate not a bountiful harvest, but the bounties of our own lives. We spend time with our families, we spend time alone, considering the year past...

It’s probably my favourite holiday.

But Thanksgiving is, in many ways, sti …

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Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater

An excerpt from Nothing More Comforting: Canada's Heritage Food by Dorothy Duncan

I light the prairie cornfields Orange and tawny gold clusters And I am
called pumpkins.
Carl Sandburg, "Theme in Yellow"

Pumpkins

Squash is the name we often use in Canada to include a wide variety of vegetables that grow throughout the western hemisphere. They are native to the Americas and were known and grown by the First Nations long before the arrival of explorers from other countries. Evidence of squash dating from 7,000 to 5,500 B.C. has been found at the Ocampa Caves in Mexico, and from there it would have travelled north. In the eastern United States, two-thousandyear- old burial mounds have yielded up similar evidence.

Among many First Nations, squash, beans, and corn were known as the Three Sisters.They were grown together, the corn standing tall and straight, the beans climbing the corn stalks, and the squash spreading out to control the weeds. When they were harvested, they were often eaten together to complement one another.

Early European explorers searching for the treasures of the Indies found instead the culinary treasures of the Americas, including squash. Although usually associated with North American cooking, squash was also carried to other parts of the world. In Great Br …

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