Woohoo! I am so excited to post this review and officially be caught up (for the moment) on my reviews! Nesting is officially starting in this last month of pregnancy so I’m putting it to good use in the blogging world.
Tonight I am super excited to share some thoughts on the third Newbery Honor book I have read this month: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. It’s been so fun to read great children’s literature this month. All three of them are now officially on my list of books to own because of their great stories, characters, themes, and covers.
This book is a quick read (I read it in about a day) with short chapters and pictures throughout. I love children’s literature lately because they are easy to finish. And I also feel accomplished when I read it. Plus, I love that I am building a library of books that I can one day read with my children.
- I have never read anything like this book. My knowledge of Chinese folklore is basically limited to what I just learned in this book. I love the way Lin incorporates the Chinese folk stories into her own original story. And she makes it really easy to distinguish between the two with italics and titles setting them apart throughout the story.
- The color illustrations are beautiful in the copy I read! I haven’t read many novels with colored pictures and this unique characteristic is very well done in this book. It makes it feel more like a book of tales than a novel.
- Goodreads says this novel is “a timeless adventure story in the classic tradition of The Wizard of Oz” which is a fun and fitting comparison.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin is a story about adventure, self discovery, and finding happiness. Goodreads relates, “In the Valley of Fruitless Mountain, a young girl named Minli spends her days working hard in the fields and her nights listening to her father spin fantastic tales about the Jade Dragon and the Old Man of the Moon. Minli’s mother, tired of their poor life, chides him for filling her head with nonsense. But Minli believes these enchanting stories and embarks on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man of the Moon and ask him how her family can change their fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest.”
I enjoyed the depth that Lin gives to the characters in this novel and the ways they change and progress. The characters themselves are a mix of classic Chinese folk characters and Lin’s original characters. My favorite character was Minli. She is an easily likable protagonist who teaches readers the importance of hope, hard work, courage, and kindness. I also really enjoyed Dragon and his journey to find happiness in his life. His friendship with Minli is endearing and sweet. The Old Man of the Moon was the most fascinating character. I loved how he was interwoven within all the stories–both old and new. His wisdom and mystery kept me wanting to learn more about him. Yet we never quite understand his character fully. An intriguing figure for sure. The goldfish peddler was the most intriguing character. He and his (magical) goldfish seem to be the catalyst that begins to change the hearts and minds of the other characters. I would have loved more of his background. I also really loved the journey that Minli’s parents go on through the novel. Often in adventure stories, we only get details about the characters out on said adventure. But here we also get glimpses into life back home and how Minli’s parents changed and progressed with her gone.
The story in this novel is simple and easy to follow. It’s a classic adventure story with our protagonist going on a quest to better her family’s fortune. She encounters various obstacles and overcomes them with the help of new friends. She finishes her journey, gets her answer, and returns home. Again, rather simple. I think the simplicity of the story makes this book ideal for children of all ages. The story is sweet and happy overall. Yes, there are some scary parts (like the encounter with the green tiger). But good wins and evil is punished. Plus, the lessons we can learn in this novel are plentiful.
There were so many powerful lessons and worthwhile morals taught in this book. One of my favorite elements in children’s literature are the great morals and lessons that can be found there. Books can teach our kids great things! Some of my favorites from this book include: the importance of changing perspective to see goodness, our ability to find happiness where you are, the power and importance of true friendship, and the power of stories. This last one is especially poignant as Minli goes on her journey because she believes in the power of the stories her Ba tells her. And after she returns home, she and her family continue to tell stories of her adventures to their friends and neighbors.
Some favorite quotes, many of them great one liners about life and perspective and happiness:
“Stories cost us nothing.”
“You only lose what you cling to.”
“Her displeasure grew like weeds–uncontrollable and tangling.”
“The joy! How it flowered and flooded over her! More golden than the king’s dragon bracelet, sweeter than a peach from the queen mother’s garden, and more beautiful than a goddess of heaven! Minli smiled, treasuring her good fortune.”
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, pages 18, 140, 253, & 266
The ending is simple and expected. It wraps the story up well and leaves the reader satisfied and happy.
Overall, one of my favorite recent reads. It’s a comfort book. I enjoyed the story, characters, and positive morals. I am now curious to read some of Lin’s other novels, especially those connected to this story. If only I could keep up with my massive TBR, right? 🙂 I highly recommend this one. Great to read out loud with kids of all ages or for adults to enjoy too.
What are some of your favorite Newbery Honor Books?