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Friday, January 28, 2011

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

I recently read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, written and illustrated by Grace Lin, a Chinese-American author and artist. (New York: Little, Brown, 2009) The book won a Newbery Honor medal, meaning that it was close to winning the Newbery award. (There's a video of Lin discussing the book with Al Roker, of NBC, and five young readers, here.)

The plot is simple enough, although I won't give it away. It has a moral, which is that we should be satisfied with the good things we have, rather than strive to obtain things that others have and we don't.

I can tell you the setting, which is once upon a time, in China, mostly rural China. There are some interesting characters, principally Minli, a young girl, her parents, peasants who have no other child, and a dragon (with no name but Dragon) who is unable to fly.

The main appeal of the book (aside from the illustrations, which are marvelous) is the way in which Lin has made the main narrative a way of having many short stories told by various characters, throughout the adventures of Minli. (These tales are mostly Chinese fairy tales.) The first such story begins on page 4, and lasts less than four pages, indicating the importance of the tales, and their brevity. There are 48 short chapters, and I guess that there is a tale within at least 12 of them, probably more. These tales are all interesting in themselves, and do not detract from the main narrative, but are all tied to it. Lin indicates that she researched Chinese lore. It is unclear as to how many of the tales she adapted from past Chinese literature, and how many she made up herself.

I'm glad I read this book. It was unlike anything else I have ever read, but a genuine pleasure to become acquainted with.

I have also read The Year of the Dog: A Novel, by Lin. It's a good book, partly autobiographical, designed for children to read, about the experiences of a Chinese-American girl who is one of only two in her grade in public schools. Lin uses stories, again, but stories of her mother and other relatives. She also illustrated the book, in the way you might expect a good artist from the elementary grades to draw.

Thanks for reading. Read Lin.


Pragmatic Mom said...

I loved this book as did my 5th grader and friends at her school. I also like The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Shang. I'm glad there is great Asian American children's lit. This didn't exist when I was a kid!

Pragmatic Mom of CoffeeShopBloggers

Pragmatic Mom said...

Oh, you might like my post on Asian in America with KidLit including a review of the Great Wall of Lucy Wu here

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Pragmatic Mom.

My interest is fantastic literature, not Asian-American literature, but I went to your blog, and you have recommended what sound like good books.