Title: All Four Quarters of the Moon
Author: Shirley Marr
Published: 5th July 2022
Synopsis: A big-hearted story of love and resilience, starring sisters and storytellers Peijing and Biju, a lost family finding their way, a Little World made of paper, a Jade Rabbit, and the ever-changing but constant moon.
Making mooncakes with Ah Ma for the Mid-Autumn Festival was the last day of Peijing’s old life. Now, adapting to their new life in Australia, Peijing thinks everything will turn out okay for her family as long as they have each other – but cracks are starting to appear.
Her little sister, Biju, needs Peijing to be the dependable big sister. Ma Ma is no longer herself; Ah Ma keeps forgetting who she is; and Ba Ba, who used to work seven days a week, is adjusting to being a hands-on dad.
How will Peijing cope with the uncertainties of her own little world while shouldering the burden of everyone else? And if Peijing’s family are the four quarters of the mooncake, where does she fit in?
Peijing and her family have moved from Singapore to Australia after the Mid-Autumn Festival, and as Peijing tries to adapt to her new life in Australia, a life that Ba Ba appears to embrace well, she’s caught between needing to fit in with her family and their culture, and finding a way to fit into Australia, her new life, and understand new ways of doing things. But Ah Ma isn’t well, and keeps forgetting Peijing, whilst Ma Ma isn’t who she once was – struggling to fit in, and at times, refusing Peijing’s help, but expecting her to take care of Biju, her younger sister (whom I found adorable). It’s the Little World that gets Peijing through. She is still a kid, but feels like she’s being expected to grow up faster. And as Peijing struggles to find a way to honour her new life and her culture, she wonders where she fits into her family as well.
All Four Quarters of the Moon is a gentle, and realistic story of immigration, reflecting on the conflict between two worlds as the main character, Peijing, tries to adapt to one whilst maintaining her links to her old life. It is a journey about a family and their new life, and reflects the realities of what it means to negotiate the unfamiliar and the desire to cling to what you know and make sure you don’t lose yourself. It is told in four parts – the four quarters of the moon – and we see the changes unfolding through Peijing’s eyes and how she responds to them. Through starting a new school, learning a new language, and at times, feeling like she is taking on more than she can handle, Peijing’s story is enchanting and lyrical, with a big heart.
It is also about identity – and how identity can change over time when we grow up and move, make new friends, and try new things. The beauty in Peijing’s story was how she coped with school, and made friends, and how she and her family adapted to the changes. I could see that Ba Ba, Peijing, and Biju adapted more easily, and that Ma Ma needed help and time to adapt. The story let her and showed that it is okay to adapt to changes in our lives. It celebrated that everyone is different, and that cultural differences shape our identity. I love that it celebrated and highlighted, and the story’s key themes of honour, family, identity, and friendship shone through, because they are timeless themes that mean something to everyone. And I loved that it negotiated the coming together of two cultures and showed that it was okay to embrace both. These timely and timeless stories could be destined to become classics, a reflection of a broader and diverse Australia. I loved this book, as I loved reading about a new experience – something unfamiliar to me but also loved the universality of family, friends, and creativity – things we all have, but that are different for everyone. There are so many things to say about this book – it’s lyrical, magical, beautiful, and comforting – because it reassures all readers that we are not alone in feeling like we don’t fit in, and lets readers know that we can find a way to fit in and be ourselves.