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Thursday, December 24, 2009

"Where the Mountain Meets the Moon" by Grace Lin (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

Visit Grace Lin's official website here
Order Where the Mountain Meets the Moon here

Introduction: I always have a soft spot for novels and stories based on folklore or history no matter what the culture was. When I learned about Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, which is a novel based off of Chinese folklore, I was excited to see how this novel was portrayed. As one of my favorite books when I was little was a book filled with Chinese folktales.

Overview: Minli, is a young girl whose family lives in a town at the bottom of the Fruitless Mountain. The citizens of all the town especially Minli's family spend long days working hard in the fields. Although they work long hours and a lot of backbreaking work the pay is very little and the family have close to nothing.

Minli's father spends the evening telling Minli fantastic stories. These stories range anywhere from the Jade Dragon to the Old Man of the Moon. Minli's mother is less enthusiastic about her daughter listening to these stories, for she believes that Minli is being lead astray about the real world that is out there waiting for her and might get her hopes up.

One day Minli decides to ask her father why the family's fortune is so poor and how she could possibly change it. In response the father tells her she must ask the Old Man of the Moon that question. Minli believing all the stories that she has been told sneaks out of the house and decides to embark on a quest to find the mysterious Old Man and ask him her all important question.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a story that has a lot of little stories woven into it. Although Minli is the main character many of the other characters tell side stories that are almost in the form that is most commonly found in Chinese folktales. All these stories form one bigger story.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon stands at 279 pages and is filled with very beautiful illustrations done by the author, Grace Lin herself.

Analysis: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a combination of wonderful characters and great story telling that stays with the reader even after they are done reading the book. Although this novel is marketed to the middle grade reader audience, adults will fall in love and get a much deeper meaning out of the story then what is set before them.

The characters that are introduced in this story all have a uniqueness to them that attracts a reader. Minli, her dragon friend, and all the other characters that she runs into on her quest all have characteristics that just bring them truly to life. Throughout the story these characters not only start to grow on the reader but these characters all grow up before your eyes. There is truly a transformation from the first pages of the story to the last. There isn't one character that doesn't touch the heart in some way, and this above all is what really makes this novel stand out above all the others that have I read recently.

Another aspect that makes Where the Mountain Meets the Moon such a great novel is the formatting for the story. While Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is one novel it also contains several smaller folk tale like stories told by the various characters. There is a fine line when weaving smaller stories into a larger novel. Sometimes it might appear forced or very stiff. Instead, Grace Lin does a wonderful job of transitioning from the folk tales to the main story. It appears to happen the right amount of times throughout the novel, any more smaller stories might make it over told or grow old and any fewer stories would make the smaller stories seem a random aspect of this novel. This aspect of writing does set this novel apart from the others that I have read.

As I don't know much about Chinese folktales or lore, I am unsure what exact stories these derive from. However, the way that Lin writes these folktales make me want to further research Chinese folktales and see for myself some of these stories. Grace Lin, in the about the author mentioned that reading Chinese folktales when she was little helped in inspiring this story and it clearly shows in not only the writing but the pictures that accompany the story.

I rarely compare books to other stories that I have read. But Where the Mountain Meets the Moon can be closely compared to the Wizard of Oz with an Asian flare. A young girl goes on a journey looking to seek advice from a fabled older wiser man. On that note, I found it almost like Oz but it also had a different flare to it that made it it's own novel and not just a carbon copy of Oz.

In the end, I really enjoyed Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and can imagine that I'll be reading it over and over again for some time to come. It's one of those rare books that can appeal to children, yet also warms the heart of adults that will pick it up. I truly hope that people can overlook the younger reader marketing and give it a try because it really is very inspirational.


Mihai A. said...

Merry Christmas, Cindy :)

Cindy said...

Merry Christmas to you too Mihai!


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