Saturday, June 12, 2010

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

How fitting that I should pick up this little gem to read just as we're embarking on our World Tour for summer lessons. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a perfect pearl of a book, deftly blending Chinese folklore and tradition with an almost modern, very accessible, heroine.
Minli lives with her parents in a dreary little village where life is just barely eked out of the barren soil. Inspired by her father's stories, Minli decides to set off for the Neverending Mountain to ask the Old Man of the Moon how she can change her family's fortune. Along the way, she is guided by a talking goldfish, meets a dragon born of a painting, watches the Goddess of Weaving flirt with an oxherd, has dinner with a king, and meets the happiest people in the land. In the end, she changes the fortunes of her whole village, but not at all the way she thought she would. Woven throughout are the stories Minli has heard from her father, as well as the stories of the people she meets, which you can't help feeling are going to become fairy tales for future generations.

The story is amply enriched by Grace Lin's beautiful paintings, which are reminiscent of traditional Chinese illustration techniques, and the little woodcut-style pictures that adorn each chapter. Other Grace Lin books we've encountered have been artistically much simpler; these are really a step up in both style and impact.

The story is magical, simple and rich at the same time. The whole thing was just charming. I have been bugging my 9 year old to finish what she's reading because she's got to read this next. My sense of this one is that it would make an excellent read-aloud book, too, because of the fairy tale nature of the text, so I may try it out on my son as well. Probably best for 3rd grade and up, though, if reading independently.

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