November 19, 2012
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked this book up but I quickly found myself pulled into the story of Minli, a young girl who lives in the village of Fruitless Mountain. There the people work hard, so hard that they are constantly coated by the dirt in which they plant their crops. Their hard works manages to yield just enough to live on and no more. Minli doesn’t mind. Each day she looks forward to the evening when her father will tell her another story.
Spaced throughout the book are a series of stories based in Chinese folklore. They are stories about dragons, an evil magistrate and the Old Man of the Moon.
As much as Minli loves the stories, her mother despises them. She fears that her husband is filling Minli’s head with dreamy nonsense and not the practical thoughts the girl will need to change her fortune.
Practical or not, Minli is determined to change her family’s fortune and she sets of on a quest at the advice of a gold fish. The fish has swum in every river but one and Minli agrees to turn the fish loose into that very river if the fish will tell her how to find the Old Man of the Moon.
The very first friend Minli makes on her journey is a dragon who has been tied up by monkeys. After she frees the dragon, they journey on together and meet a boy with his water buffalo, a pair of daring children dressed in red and a king who pretends to be a beggar.
The things that Minli learns on this trip subtly change her so that by the time she meets the Old Man of the Moon, her question for him has changed as well.
Broken into short chapters and equally short folktales, this is an easy book to read in small pieces which would make it an excellent choice for periodic family reading throughout the holidays or while on a trip. The story that Lin has created has much to say to the hearts of people today, people who hope for more than they have at the expense of what is already there.
Lin’s artwork, both the cut paper and the paintings, bring splashes of color to this sweet, charming tale with a timeless message for one and all.