Here is a title that has been sitting on my tbr pile for quite some time. After all of the Mock Newbery results started pouring in, it was obvious that it was time to move this to the top of the pile! On my way to Boston for ALA’s Midwinter Conference, I had just the time I needed to get reading.
Minli’s family is very poor. In fact, everyone in her village is very poor. They live in the shadow of the Fruitless Mountain, where crops do not grow, and the land is barren and tough. It is all her family can do to work daily on their land and try to harvest enough rice to eat that day. Minli’s parents have very different outlooks on the their existence with Ma spending her time sighing bitterly over their fortune while her Ba fills their empty hours with colourful stories filled with mythical creatures, magic and far off lands. Ma scoffs at the stories, but Minli simply comes alive and seems to glow while she listens.
One day a goldfish seller comes into their little village declaring that a goldfish in the house will bring fortune into one’s home. Minli, with her faith in story, believes the goldfish seller and rushes into her home to get the 2 coins that are hers alone from when she was born. The fish costs her one of her coins and even though others in the village warn her not to believe the man, she happily brings her new fish home.
When her parents return from the fields, her mother is shocked and disappointed that Minli wasted her coin. Ba, however, reminds her that the money is Minli’s to do with what she pleases. Ma only sees the fish as another mouth to feed…something that Minli had not thought about when she first spotted the fish.
Minli decides in the dark of night to free the fish, so that her parents will not have to worry about feeding it. When she releases it in the river, something amazing happens. The fish speaks to her, and tells her how she can change the fortune of her family.
Soon Minli is off on her own, chasing her dream of helping her parents change their fortune. What follows is an adventure of discovery involving a flightless dragon, a boy with one friend, and the Old Man of the Moon.
Grace Lin has written an enchanting story that mixes a rich cultural landscape with a magical quest. Minli has such a pure spirit, that readers can’t help but root for her to overcome all of the odds and help her family. Between the “outside” stories, the pacing is perfect, and while I wondered at first if I would be able to keep momentum during the telling of the “outside” stories, it is managed with ease. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon has all of the qualities of a book with staying power. It will be interesting to see if this appears on some of the lists this year!