Thursday, October 27, 2016

Fumbling Through Fantasy: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (2009)

Minli's family lives in the valley of Fruitless Mountain, where they are very poor and must scrounge daily to have enough to eat. Inspired by stories her father has told and aided by such fantastical creatures as a talking fish and a dragon who can't fly, Minli sets off to find the Man of the Moon. She believes that when she finds him, he will be able to tell her how to bring about her family's fortune. In the meantime, Minli's mother, who has previously been very discontent and displeased with her husband's storytelling, comes to appreciate the treasure she has in a daughter like Minli while waiting for her safe return.

This attractively designed book combines a fairy tale quest with retellings of traditional Chinese folk tales to create a new story about storytelling, family, and true happiness. The folk tales are told by different characters Minli meets on her journey, and each tale is given a context that makes the telling rich and relevant. Young readers can begin to see the relationship between cultural experiences and the stories told in a culture, and because characters from the tales come to life on Minli's quest, they become much more real to the reader than they might if the tales were simply read in isolation. Illustrations in Lin's signature style, known to most from the Ling and Ting books, also complement the text nicely and provide visual context for Minli's journey.

The writing in this book is mostly very pleasing. The story moves quickly, and the text would make a strong family read-aloud. There are a few too many similes in the book for my taste, and sometimes the tone takes on a contemporary flair that doesn't match what I expect to hear in a fairy tale. Still, the story is compelling and it is a perfect gentle fantasy for kids on the younger end of the middle grade spectrum. I look forward to reading the companion titles, Starry River of the Sky and When the Sea Turned to Silver.

1 comment:

  1. I started this one last year and didn't finish it. I liked it but didn't love it. It's on my list to read with my girls this school year, so I hope to get back to it.

    Thanks so much for playing along! It has been fun.