Sunday, December 26, 2010

Where the mountain meets the moon by Grace Lin

In a scene reminiscent of the best folklore Minli uses her last coin to help a poor beggar. He is thirsty and wants a peach from the market stall. The mysterious beggar eats the peach and then he takes a small stick from his pocket and plants the peach pit alongside the stick. As the crowd stand there mesmerised the stick begins to grow. It sprouts branches and then pink blossoms. The petals fall like a soft carpet, green leaves sprout and soon the tree is heavy with ripe fruit. "Children gathered round and stared longingly at the luscious fruit." The old man invites the crowd to help themselves but Minli stands to one side watching. She alone notices that "every time someone plucked a peach from the tree, a peach from the fruit stand disappeared." Who is this beggar? Minli follows him and as he runs away she catches his sleeve and sees a glint of gold. The gold is a bracelet in the shape of a dragon. "Everyone knows a gold dragon is always and only worn by kings."

This is just one of the many memorable scenes in this book. Minli needs to visit the Old Man of the Moon so she can ask him how to restore the fortunes of her family who live near Fruitless Mountain. At its heart this story is a journey and like all great stories involving journeys as a reader I really felt I too was travelling with Minli. Along the way she meets a dragon and through her kindness the two become inseparable friends with a shared destiny.

I love the way Grace Lin weaves Chinese folklore into her story. Minli's father is a storyteller and so are many of the other people and magical characters she meets along the way. A simple change of font allows the reader to recognise the inclusion of a story and each of these help weave a tapestry of life lessons as Minli woks through each of the challenges presented by her quest.

Gold fish, markets, peaches, dragons and most importanly friendship abound in this magical tale.

At the end of each year our Grade 6 students include a highly recommended book as part of their year book profile. The list for 2010 was quite exciting and this fabulous book was mentioned by more than one student.

Where the Mountain meets the Moon is a Newberry Honor book which means you can find plenty of information about it on web sites and blogs. I also found an excellent page of teaching activities. This would be a terrific book to read as a serial for a class talking about China. The book design and illustrations are also beautiful.

If you loved the Dragonkeeper series by Carole Wilkinson you must look for Where the Mountain meets the Moon.

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