“I did all the normal Canadian kid things – you know, play sport and take trips to the mall,” says Christina Matula, of growing up in suburban Ottawa, as she settles into a chair in a coffee shop in Causeway Bay. What set her apart was her heritage – her mother is Taiwanese, her father Hungarian. “I was one of the few Asian kids in my school and my sister and I were the only mixed-race kids.”
Among her fondest childhood memories are those of Mid-Autumn Festival, the modern take on a centuries-old Chinese harvest celebration, with its lanterns and mooncakes. “I had a huge extended family living nearby so I had a vague idea what the festival was about but didn’t know anything about the legend or the festival’s origins,” she says. “For me, it was about these yummy red bean cakes that mum brought home from Chinatown.”
It was only after she moved to Hong Kong, in 2007, that Matula began to explore her culture in more depth. Keen to teach her own daughter, 10-year-old Elsa, about the origins of the Mid-Autumn Festival, but unable to find picture books on the subject, Matula decided to create her own. Initially made just for family, the book turned out to be too good not to share, and it is now published by Charlesbridge.
The Shadow in the Moon is a fun retelling of traditional customs full of colourful characters, including mythical archer Hou Yi and his wife, Chang’e, the Lady on the Moon.
Illustrated by Hong Kong-born Pearl Law, the book begins with a modern family enjoying a festival feast as a grandmother tells the story of the legend to her grandchildren (inspired by Matula and her sister).
Matula, who is on the board of the Bring Me A Book Hong Kong charity, says the story’s aim is to give children a better appreciation of their culture.
“The Shadow in the Moon takes place in an urban setting but really it could be a tale of any family in any city, in any country,” she says. “I want the reader to see parallels with any festival that is celebrated in their culture.”
Christina Matula will host book-readings on September 1 at 4pm, at Bookazine in Discovery Bay; and September 2 at 3pm, at Eslite, City Plaza, Taikoo Shing.The Shadow in the Moon is available online as well as at Bookazine and Eslite outlets.