Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Monday, February 15, 2010

There is a barren mountain aptly called Fruitless Mountain, and by it lies the dark Jade River. In the shadow of the mountain is a poor village where everything is the dull color of mud. In this village live Ba and Ma and their quick-thinking daughter Minli. Ba, Ma, and Minli work hard in the fields every day, yet they only have plain rice to eat for their meals. Ma sighs with discontentment all the time. Minli looks at her weary father, her dissatisfied mother, and her desolate village and wishes she knew how she could change their fortune.

Ba has told Minli wonderful stories about the Never-Ending Mountain and the Old Man of the Moon who knows the answer to all important questions, for he alone holds and reads the Book of Fortune. Minli decides to find the Never-Ending Mountain and climb up to the moon so that she can ask the Old Man how she can change her family's fortune. And so begins Minli's journey. Along the way, she makes many new friends, including a dragon, a buffalo boy, and a king.

Minli's story is generously sprinkled with the stories told by Ba and by the animals and people she meets. These magical stories and Minli's own story were inspired by Chinese folktales and all are connected in surprising and delightful ways.

There isn't a lot of external action during the journey, but there is so much going on inside Minli. Readers will find the internal transformation she goes through in her quest for good fortune very satisfying. There is so much wisdom in this book. It is about kindness, generosity, and hospitality. It is about faith and the secret to happiness. It is about the truth in and the power of stories.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is not just an example of fine storytelling. It is also an example of fine bookmaking. It is an object of art. The book is filled with engaging, intricately-detailed spot and full-page illustrations in rich, jewel-like colors.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a quietly impressive book from a truly skilled author and illustrator.


[Where the Mountain Meets the Moon was a finalist in the middle grade science fiction and fantasy category of the 2009-2010 Cybils awards. I bought my own copy so that I could read it as a Cybils judge.]