REVIEW: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
Dear Ms. Lin:
I don’t review many non romance books here at Dear Author because it’s a) a romance oriented blog and b) I rarely read anything that isn’t romance except for the books I read to my daughter. For the most part, the books I’ve read to my five year old are mainly old classic standbys such as Dr. Seuss stories and the Magic Tree House series which are educational but nothing to write home about in terms of storytelling.
My husband read an excerpt of Where the Mountain meets the Moon and bought it. (You can hear an excerpt here read by the author). We are always on the look out for any girl positive stories.
We started the book about three weeks ago, reading a few chapters every night in alternating succession. I would read one night and my husband, the other. My tot was mostly interested in the dragon, but my husband and I were so captivated with the book that we would give each other recaps after we had finished. Sometimes we would ask the tot to tell us what had happened when Mommy or Daddy had read the story the night before.
I finished reading the book to the tot Sunday morning because I just could not wait to find out what happened to Minli, her family, and the dragon and when I closed the story I felt like I had just read something very profound.
This is a beautifully written fable for people of all ages, not just those in grades 3-6, as suggested by the publisher.
Minli is a girl whose family is very poor. They live in the valley of Fruitless Mountain, an area so resistant to color and fortune that everything within the village looks drab, from the houses to the people. All day the three work in the muddy rice fields and eek out just enough from the harvest to provide one bowl of rice each night.
Her mother (Ma) is embittered about their lack of fortune. She scoffs at Minli’s father (Ba) when he tries to entertain the family each evening with a fanciful tale. One story that Ba tells Minli is that of the Old Man of the Moon and his book of Fortune. The Old Man can tell you what will happen in the future and in some cases, he can even change your Fortune.
Oppressed by the dreariness of her village, her life, and anxious to bring happiness to her family, Minli sets out to find the Old Man of the Moon and ask him how she can change her family’s fortune. As Minli journeys to find Never Ending Mountain, the home of Old Man of the Moon, she is joined by a flightless dragon who has lived for years upon years in the forest, hiding and alone. Along the way, Minli meets and hears the fortunes of the very rich and the very poor until she learns an important lesson about herself, her family, and their fortune. While Minli is away, Ma and Ba have to come to terms with Minli’s absence. Ma blames Ba for filling Minli’s head with impossible tales. Ba is sad and silent.
The book is illustrated with small ink drawings at the start of every chapter and full color illustrations scattered sparsely throughout the book. I could have used a few more full color illustrations but only because the ones that were included were gorgeous.
About every other chapter there is a Chinese fairy tale told by one of the characters (never Minli though). Each one of these stories are interwoven with each other like the tangled strings of fortune that Old Man of the Moon ties to the figures on the earth. Essentially, there are two stories that take place. Minli’s search for Never Ending Mountain and that of Magistrate Tiger, a man twisted with his desire for more.
This is not a coming of age story where Minli learns about herself with each step of the journey. Instead, it is a story about the bonds of family, the secret to happiness, and the insidious nature of envy, jealousy, and want.
It made me think about my role as a parent and how even the most unthinking of actions can have an impact on how my daughter views her place in the world. I can’t wait for the time when my daughter can read this to herself. Until then, though, I wouldn’t regret it if she wanted me to read it to her one more time. A