Monday 22 July 2019

#CBR11 Book 45: "Where the Mountain Meets the Moon" by Grace Lin

Page count: 260 pages
Rating: 4 stars

#CBR11 Bingo: Far and Away (book set in fantasy version of historical China)

Official book description:
In the valley of Fruitless mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man on the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life's questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man on the Moon to ask him how she can change her family's fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest for the ultimate answer. 

This is an utterly lovely middle grade fantasy book, inspired by a lot of the Chinese folklore tales that Grace Lin herself read while growing up. The main story is about young Minli who leaves the only home she's ever known to try to find a way to ensure a better, richer life for her hard working and desperately poor parents. There are also countless stories within the story, that all link up in clever ways as the main story progresses. Minli's father tells her stories, people and creatures she encounter along her journey tell her stories - there are so many various tales that make up the whole of this delightful book.

As well as follow Minli on her quest to find the Old Man on the Moon, we see how her worried parents fare and think about her while she's gone. While Minli goes on a long and occasionally hazardous journey by herself, her mother is forced to go on an emotional journey of sorts, to figure out what role she may have played in her daughter's sudden disappearance (initially she wholeheartedly blames her husband and his "filling the girl's head with silliness and dreams"). It's not often we see those left behind while our hero or heroine goes off on their quest narrative, and as a parent myself now, I appreciated seeing how the parents kept trying to cope at home.

Minli has a difficult and often dangerous trip ahead of her, and meets many individuals along the way. There are dragons, mischievous monkeys, kind villagers, scrappy orphans, a king, a vengeful tiger spirit, just to name a few. As with Western fairy tales, being kind, polite, helpful and courteous will usually lead to good things for our protagonist, and one of the things I just really love about folklore are the similarities, for all that a lot of the finer details are different.

I very much enjoyed this book and as far as I can tell, Grace Lin has written a number of other books, both for young and middle grade readers. I can't wait to check out more of her stuff.

Judging a book by its cover: Grace Lin isn't just a very talented middle grade author, she's also an illustrator who makes the beautiful pictures that accompanies her writing throughout the story. On the cover of the book, we see our heroine, Minli, riding on the back of her loyal dragon friend. I also love the intricate top and bottom border of the cover, with a number of other little details from the story.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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