Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Minli lives with her Ma and Ba in the Valley of Fruitless Mountain.  Life is hard, as very little grows, and everyone in the village must work hard day after day just to grow enough rice to eat.  Minli loves listening to her father's stories in the evenings, and one day decides she will find the Old Man of the Moon who knows the answer to everything.  She will ask him how she can change her family's fortune.  So Minli sets off on an impossible journey.

This was lovely and poetic.  A lesson is learned, but it never felt heavy handed or preachy.  Storytelling is an important part of the narrative.  Often Minli encounters others along her journey that tells her a story, and the story becomes important in some way.  All the stories end up fitting together beautifully in the end.

Minli sets off on this journey mostly because she wishes her parents didn't have to work so hard and wishes her mother wasn't always so worried and sad and her father so tired.  After Minli leaves to find the Old Man of the Moon, we don't completely leave Ma and Ba to follow her.  The story keeps coming back to her parents, who at first try to follow her, and then decide to wait and hope she will return.  Minli's parents grow and change while she is gone.

Minli encounters many strange people and creatures on her journey.  All the stories her father would tell her in the evenings turn out to be true.  Minli meets a dragon that accompanies on her journey.  She meets kings, talking goldfish, and many wonderful, kind people, as well as some who aren't as wonderful and kind.  Minli is confused when some of the people she encounters, who seem as poor or more poor then she and her family have no interest in coming with her to see the Old Man of the Moon to find out how to change their fortunes.  Minli doesn't understand this at the time, but when she finally meets the Old Man of the Moon and has to make a hard choice, Minli realizes what actually brings happiness to a family.

A great middle grade novel for the kid who likes sweet happy endings and a little bit of fantasy.

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