Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin 2011
Little, Brown and Company/Hachette Book Group
IQ "Moonlight misted over the rough floors and made the sparse room glow silver, the goldfish bowl looking like a second moon. The shabby walls and worn stones seemed to shimmer as if a translucent silk veil covered them, muting any flaws and transforming the house into a dwelling of luminous light and delicate shadows. Minli had never seen her home look so beautiful." pg. 265 Isn't that just such a....lush description?
Minli lives in the Valley of Fruitless Mountain with her parents, they spend their days hard at work in the fields. her father is never too tired to tell Minli stories, especially about the Old Man of the Moon who knows the answer to everything. Minli sets out on a journey to find the Old Man of the Moon so that she can discover how to bring fortune to her family. On her quest to help her family she meets a talking fish, dragons, a powerful king and some mischievous twins.
There is nothing wrong with this book and yet I didn't LOVE it. I would say it's because I'm too old and while I'm not the intended audience I know of many reviewers/older (than MG) readers who adore this book. I'm not sure what my problem with the book is exactly, which is most unhelpful, a reviewer not being able to explain why they didn't like the book. I do think though that maybe this book should have been made a picture book. The illustrations were superb and I think this book was made for being big enough that you can flip whole pages and simply admire the lovely pictures. I liked that not only were there colorful illustrations in each chapter, but each chapter had a simple and small drawing that was relevant to the story within each chapter. I think my main problem was that I was hoping for some elaborate plot twist that would have shocked me, and there wasn't and so I became bored. What is elaborate are the tiny details in the pictures and in describing people and objects (like Minli's house in the Incredible Quote). I wanted Minli to succeed so I was emotionally invested in her story, but I was also bored with her story.
I loved the descriptions of people, places and objects "The goldfish man looked a third time at Ma and Ba, and this time they felt it. Under his gaze, Ma and Ba suddenly felt like freshly peeled oranges, and their words fell away from them. Inexplicably, they felt ashamed" (pg. 61). The author has an eye for making seemingly subtle situations and low-key people become alive with superb detail. I was pleased that the parents weren't just left at home to sit and twiddle their thumbs. The mother is demanding but not cruel, the father is a dreamer who aims to please his wife and daughter and when Minli leaves their home, they both set out to look for her. The mother goes through character development which is wonderful because how often do parents even get mentioned?
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon definitely has that timeless air about it, reads like a fairytale, a good ol quest that involves making lots of new friends and using your wits. The dragon Minli meets can't fly which is cute and while the story isn't all that hard to figure out (especially the end bit concerning the dragon) I really appreciated the stories within the story. Some of the stories within the stories are real myths, others are myths that the author embellishes, adding her own touch (not that I would have been able to tell but this is helpfully explained in the author's note). Minli is a sweet girl that it will be easy to relate to, she craves independence and she wants to help her family (and the adventurous aspect of finding the Old Man in the Moon certainly doesn't hurt). Minli is also quite clever and clever main characters always make for fun reads. This book overall is absolutely majestic from the beautiful cover to the creamy pages, enchanting illustrations and the meticulous attention to detail within the story.
Disclosure: Received from the publisher for review. Thank you!