Plot: Minli lives with her mother and father in the Valley of Fruitless Mountain. They work very hard, toiling in their rice fields all day long, but still they are very poor. Each evening, Minli’s father, Ba, tells her fantastic stories that sweep her mind away from their troubles. But her mother, Ma, complains about their hard life, about Ba’s stories, about everything. One day, though, a goldfish man comes into their village. His appearance and the fish he sells Minli are the start of her unforgettable adventure to find the Old Man in the Moon, an adventure that brings with it new friends, dangerous obstacles, and an abundance of stories.
Setting: China; timeless.
Point of View: 3rd person
Theme: Storytelling, folktales, hardship, friendship, fortune, adventure, fantasy, China
Literary Quality: Grace Lin thoughtfully combines adventure, humor, fantasy, and folktales in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Minli’s brave, clever, kind, and earnest character is utterly endearing. While folktales often include recognizable character types, and certainly we can identify some stock traits here (clever, wise, whiny, kind and poor, greedy, etc.) Lin has fleshed out this fantasy world and all of its inhabitants. Her graceful incorporation of stories and storytelling throughout the book weaves a stunning tapestry that finally depicts a delightful and beautiful new folktale. This tapestry is made all the more colorful by Lin’s illustrations, some of which are full-color spreads, others smaller line art in changing monotones, as well as even smaller medallions. The final effect of text and art together is one of vibrancy. This story leaps off the page and comes to life in exciting and tender ways. A tribute to storytelling in all its forms, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a great accomplishment.
Cultural Authenticity: Lin explores her own heritage through many of her books, including Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, which draws on many traditional Chinese folktales, her real experiences and visits in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, and (of course) her own imagination. She offers readers a glimpse into her process of creation at the end of the book in a section called “Behind the Story.”
Audience: Ages 8-12, or any age thereafter. The female protagonist may attract female readers especially, but the adventures and story in general should have broad appeal.
Personal reaction: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon left me feeling awestruck. Just by flipping through the pages you can see the care and love that went into this book: the illustrations, the layout, the font: it’s a beautiful book. And the story itself is gentle yet powerful. This is a book that should be lingered over. It is a book that easily lends itself to re-reading and reading aloud. I occasionally pull it off the shelf just to read one or two of the stories that Minli hears. Layered and lovely, I highly recommend it to readers young and old.