- Virginia Johnson
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin, is a gentle, wondrous Chinese fantasy book for children. Set in a long-ago times, it follows a brave and bright girl named Minli who lives with her parents in a poor farming village. There is barely enough rice to keep them fed and certainly not any for luxuries. Most all the people are downtrodden and worried about their daily lives, but not Minli. She does not like the hard work in the sticky, muddy rice fields, but every evening she can look forward to stories told by her beloved father.
These tales fill her heart and her mind in such a way that she becomes the most radiant and hopeful young girl living near Fruitless Mountain. Indeed, she is so hopeful that when a peddler comes to their village with bowls of lucky goldfish, she takes her small savings to buy one, with high expectations. But when no luck seems to come and her father starts sharing his small supper with the hungry fish, Minli knows she must let it go. Releasing it into the Jade River, a river created according to legend from the body of a grieving dragon, she is surprised when a sweet, high-pitched voice—the goldfish!—offers to help her find her fortune by telling her the way to Never-Ending-Mountain where lives the Old Man of the Moon. The Old Man knows all things, including how her family’s fortune might be changed.
Minli’s adventure is interwoven with other tales, such as “The Story of the Village of the Moon Rain” and “The Story of the Old Man of the Moon.” Traditional in style, the illustrations add a lovely touch to the book’s setting. Author Grace Lin based her book in part on Chinese folktales her mother shared with her but added her own elements to create a full, rich reading experience. The bright, lyrical language, travelling rhythm, stories-within-a-story, and uplifting fairy-tale themes make this an excellent book to share at bedtime or to pore over during a long, rainy afternoon.