Title: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Author: Grace Lin
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
May Contain Spoilers
This Newbery Honor book features magic, adventure, friendship, and even a dragon who can’t fly!
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.
What a treat it was to read this book! I hadn’t heard of it prior to receiving a review copy, and I am confused as to why. It was just released in paperback, and it is one of the best MG books I have read. Ever. It made me laugh. It held me enthralled. It made me cry. Why? Because it came to an end. It takes a special book to make me cry just because I have read the last page! I loved Minli and Dragon, and was spellbound for the entire book.
Life for Minli and her parents is hard. They are poor, they struggle to grow enough food to feed themselves, and they live in the shadow in of barren mountain. When Minli sees how hard her father works, and how her mother sighs with despair, she wants to do something, anything, to improve their fortune. What she doesn’t expect is that a goldfish will send her on an epic journey, and that she will face more dangers than she could have imagined, and make friendships that will last a lifetime.
I don’t know how to explain how much I loved this book. The format is different than anything I’ve read; each character has a story to tell, and all of these stories are interconnected and have a bearing on Minli’s quest. These little vignettes add depth to the plot, and kept me even more engaged in Minli’s journey. I started to look forward to reading all of short stories within the larger story, and learning how all of the characters’ lives were interwoven together. All of the stories within the story meshed together to seamlessly as Minli risked everything to improve her parents’ lives.
I loved Minli and her bravery, and the way she decided that something needed to be done, and then she went out and did it. I loved her kindness the best, though, and how she cared about others. She never puts herself first, not even when it puts her quest in doubt. As she moves from one adventure to the next, and meets new characters, she also changes and matures. The Minli at the end of the book is an even kinder and much wiser Minli than the young, idealist girl we are first introduced to, whose most rebellious act was to purchase a goldfish from a traveling peddler.
To add to the charm, Grace Lin’s full-color illustrations are peppered throughout the book, and the chapter headers have simpler images rendered in different colors. The images added so much personality to the story, and the flashes of color worked together to create a visually appealing book. Once I picked it up, I didn’t want to put it back down. I wanted to uncover all of the illustrations, page by page, as I journeyed along with Minli.
I can’t recommend Where the Mountain Meets the Moon highly enough. This is an all-ages book, and it will appeal equally to boys and girls. Even if you don’t normally read Middle-Grade novels, give this one a try. You won’t be disappointed.
Grade: A – Highly Recommended!
Review copy provided by publisher