Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Release Date: July 1, 2009
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Grace Lin, author of the beloved Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat, returns with a wondrous story of happiness, family, and friendship. A fantasy crossed with Chinese folklore, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a timeless adventure story in the classic tradition of The Wizard of Oz.
In the Valley of Fruitless Mountain, a young girl named Minli spends her days working hard in the fields and her nights listening to her father spin fantastic tales about the Jade Dragon and the Old Man of the Moon. Minli’s mother, tired of their poor life, chides him for filling her head with nonsense. But Minli believes these enchanting stories and embarks on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man of the Moon and ask him how her family can change their fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest.
WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON by Grace Lin is the story of Minli, a young girl who lives with her Ma and Ba in the Village of Fruitless Mountain, who decides to find the Old Man of the Moon and change her fortune. This was a beautiful fantasy novel, filled with Chinese folklore and illustrations (by the author I believe) that every middle grade reader should have on their shelf.
This book is filled with stories and that really spoke to the past child-me who wanted to learn about every myth, legend and historical event of a book’s world. INKHEART by Cornelia Funke will forever be my favourite childhood book for this reason. To clarify, there would be the story of Minli, what I’d call the main text and then there were the stories the characters would tell each other. These stories were given a different format – italicized font, a title separating it from the main text – so it felt like a story within a story. These stories would either be inspired by Chinese folklore and the author’s imagination or were only slightly embellished (Lin 294). What I loved most about these stories, they were all connected in one way or another. For example, a main character of one story might be a minor character in another. After a story has been told, a character of it might be mentioned in passing, so you start picking up on that. How these stories were connected with each other and the main text really depended on the character telling it and where that character lived. Truly stunning!
I loved every character in this book – from Minli to her parents to the minor characters and even the villains/antagonists in the stories the characters told to each other. However, the characters aren’t as impressive as the characters of other middle grade books. This is not to say the characters are underdeveloped but this book is basically a book of fairytales, so the characters aren’t meant to be that complex. I’m worried a MG reader might get bored, when thinking about characters of other books. I would also say this book might be a hit or miss for people that don’t usually read middle grade. I loved this for the stories, but if you don’t enjoy them, I’m not sure if the characters can tide you over.
I was never bored with the plot and I think Lin is a born storyteller. The things the author would come up with and how Minli & other characters overcame those odds were incredible. I found myself being able to easily guess what would happen next, but that didn’t deter from the story for me. I think this was done on purpose and fit with the whole fairytale format. I wasn’t familiar with any of the folktales but being able to still guess what would happen in most cases helped me connect with those stories and characters. I also loved that Ma and Ba regularly had chapters told in their POV. Usually in fairytales, the parents are absent but this was a nice and realistic change.
I would 100% recommend this book. The originality of the stories and the people and creatures Minli meets on her journey was absolutely amazing! Talking fish, dragons, beautiful illustrations and greedy monkeys?! What more could you ask for? I can’t wait to read more of Lin’s works.