Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

From her own Chinese roots, Grace Lin has created a wonderful  modern day folktale for children of all ages in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.  It is the story of young Minli who lives in a small village with her parents Ba and Ma in the shadow of Fruitless Mountain. Everyday, all the villagers must toil away in the mud that forms where Fruitless Mountain meets Jade River to plant and harvest just enough rice to live.  Fruitless Mountain is a dull brown color because nothing grows there.

In the evening, as the family eats their rice, Minli loves to have her father tell her stories.  One of her favorites is The Story of Fruitless Mountain.  When Minli asks if anything will ever grow on this barren mountain again, Ba tells her that is a question for the Old Man of the Moon.

The next day, returning from the field to begin making the day's rice meal, Minli runs into the Goldfish Man.  Knowing how hard her parents must work everyday, and wanting nothing more than to change their fortune, Minli buys a goldfish from the man, who tells her that goldfish means "plenty of gold" and that one in the house will bring gold and jade there, or really good fortune.

That night, Minli asks Ba what they need to do the bring fortune back to their village, he again says it is a question for The Old Man of the Moon who can be found on Never-Ending Mountain.  However, Ma is so angered that Minli spent one of her two coins on a goldfish and that Ba has given up a few precious grains to his rice to feed it, that Minli decides to let the goldfish go.  But before swimming away in the Jade River, the goldfish tells Minli how to find The Old Man of the Moon.

And so leaving a note for Ma and Ba, Minli begin her quest, and along the way she meets is a dragon who cannot fly and has been tied up by monkeys to keep in out of their peach orchard.  Minli frees the dragon and they decide to travel together to seek The Old Man of the Moon so the dragon can ask why he cannot fly like other dragons.  Minli and the dragon have many adventures, meeting others along the way who also tell them stories that help to to get Minli to her destination.

Enchanting - that is the word that most often came to my mind when I read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.  Lin has created a fantasy world where fish can tell you how to find your way, dragons can help get you there and the tales you hear along the way serve as your guideposts.

When my Kiddo was young, we read lots of Chinese myths together, so I really loved the way Lin worked her myths so easily within the frame work of Minli's quest.  It gave the whole story a feeling of being very old and wise.  Lin understanding of the symbols in Chinese myth is very apparent: there are goldfish for luck and affluence, dragons that have power over water, rainfall, and floods and symbolize power and strength, tigers and even kite flying, flown high for prosperity and to avoid bad luck.

Ba's stories may have inspired Minli to seek The Old Man of the Moon, but her mother always thought they were a waste of time: "Another story! Our house is bare and our rice hardly fills our bowls, but we have plenty of stories." Ma sighed again. "What a poor fortune we have!" (pg 10)  But even she saw how happy Ba's stories made Minli.  On of the things I did like in this novel is that Minli's adventure is interspersed with sections about her parents - readers see them missing her, and when Ba tells her stories to comfort her, Ma's attitude towards them changes just as the stories change her.

There is a definite lesson to be learned from Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, but to tell it would be to spoil the ending, so just let me say that this is a novel that should not be missed and is a wonderful read aloud book for kids of any age.

Lin did her own illustrations for this novel and they are spectacular.  Be sure to pay close attention to them as you read along.  There is much to be found there.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was purchased for my personal library

An excellent Educator's Guide is available for Where the Mountain Meets the Moon here.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a 2010 Newbery Honor Book.  It is book 3 of my 2013 Award Winning Reading Challenge hosted by Gathering Books.

1 comment:

  1. cool doing this for a school play


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