Title: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Author: Grace Lin
Publisher: Little, Brown & Co Books for Young Readers, 2009. 278 pages.
Publisher's Summary:In the valley of Fruitless mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man on the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life's questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man on the Moon to ask him how she can change her family's fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest for the ultimate answer.
Grace Lin, author of the beloved Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat, returns with a wondrous story of adventure, faith, and friendship. A fantasy crossed with Chinese folklore, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a timeless story reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz. Her beautiful illustrations, printed in full-color, accompany the text throughout. Once again, she has created a charming, engaging book for young readers.
This book has a different feel from most kids books being written these days. Instead of an immediate-action first-person narrative, it reads more like the folk stories with which Minli's story is intertwined. This slower, more distanced narrative may make it harder for some readers to engage with the book, but a little persistence is well repaid, as Minli and her family (and the dragon) become more and more well-rounded and real, without ever losing that sense of being "long ago and far away."
There are a couple of things I really liked about this book. One was just the story: it's a nicely written tale with a strong message about family, fortune, and taking control of one's own destiny (and about the sacrifices you make for a friend, too). But I also enjoyed the calmer, quieter pace after some pretty lively, high-tension books lately. And, finally, I doubly appreciated that Grace Lin made use of the folk stories of her own childhood, bringing a whole new set of legends to Western readers. In her Author's Note at the end, she explains how she rolled her eyes and ignored the stories in her youth, but later came to appreciate that Asia is her heritage, and that the stories were wonderful, powerful things she could use.
Read it. Read it for the restful tale and musical style, and read it for a better understanding of another culture (or your own, if you are like the author!). Oh, and read it for the lovely illustrations, which were also done by the multi-talented author! The book has a long list of awards, and in my opinion, it deserves them (though like many Newbery selections, children may struggle more to see the appeal than adults do).
FTC Disclosure: I checked Where the Mountain Meets the Moon out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."