On Books: Children Have Literature Too

The Book: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon – Grace Lin

“The secret of keeping young is to read children’s books…” ~John Cheever

Every once in a while I thoroughly enjoy reading a book meant for people much younger than I am. It was time for me to do so again, and Grace Lin’s novel jumped right off a Goodwill shelf and into my hands.

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. I had never heard of Lin before, so I’d never had a taste of her writing style. I realize there is a saying that goes “don’t judge a book by its cover”, but the bright red dragon was all I needed to be convinced to give the book a try. I was not left disappointed, however; instead, the book provided a rousing tale complete with adventure, dragons (yay!), and, ultimately, a lesson in thankfulness.

The story follows Minli, a young Chinese girl who lives in a tiny hut in a very poor village with her parents. An imaginative child, Minli loves her father’s stories and believes them to be true. Her mother however, who is dissatisfied with their life, often tells Minli to stop being so ridiculous. Seeing her parents labor endlessly in the rice fields, Minli becomes determined to find the Old Man of the Moon – an omniscient character from her father’s tales – in order to see how to change her family’s fortune.

After leaving a note, Minli heads off on her journey, following the instructions of a talking goldfish. She soon hears a cry for help from a dragon who has been trapped by monkeys in his sleep, and she frees him. Dragon (as he is aptly named), who can’t fly and wishes to know why, thus finds his first friend, and the two band together and continue traveling, encountering many different characters and challenges along the way.

What I enjoyed about this book was the combination of traditional Chinese fairytales and Lin’s own imagination. The author weaved many different short stories surrounding either the characters or mythical entities into the main plot, enhancing it and adding a magic that would not have been there otherwise. I also loved that the point of view switched between Minli and her parents, allowing the reader to see what was happening at home while Minli was away.

The ending of the story was also quite wonderful. It contained a message to all: be thankful for what you have. Despite my cynical nature, I appreciated the sentiment and found great truth in it.

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy fairytales and to those who enjoy taking a step back and reading a simple but engrossing story.

Overall score: 4/5 stars.

-MC

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