starlady: (moon dream)
When I visited Birchbark Books last month I was on the point of buying Grace Lin's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon until I decided that really I needed to own Charles Mann's 1491 rather more. But my library provided me with a copy of Lin's book, and I finished it this morning. I enjoyed it thoroughly--it's the story of the girl Meili, who after an encounter with a talking goldfish decides to leave her parents behind in their village at the foot of Fruitless Mountain to ask the Old Man in the Moon how to change her family's fortune. Along her quest she meets many interesting characters, notably a dragon born from a painting named Dragon, several adventurous fish, a family of stone lions, a king, a vengeful tiger-spirit, and some truly brave twins. It reads a little bit like The Wizard of Oz, a little bit like a folk or fairy tale, and is thoroughly charming; it's a universal story set in a China that never quite was...but might have been.

When the Mountain Meets the Moon is also, as a book, gorgeous. The cover is a rich purple, and the interior is decorated with full-color illustrations and single-color frontispieces by Lin herself, which add immeasurably to the story's charm (I think Lin did the jacket, too, and it's also beautiful; it has Meili and Dragon on it). Aside from Meili's adventure, Lin also makes the point, gently, that the journeys we make to change ourselves, without ever going anywhere, are equally important, by alternating Meili's story with that of her parents waiting at home for her. Along the way everyone in the story tells little stories-within-a-story, and these inset stories eventually are shown to be interlinked with themselves and with Meili's quest in clever ways. In short, I really liked this book.

In some ways, actually, the book reminded me of Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief (which was a Newbery Honor book in 1997, if memory serves) because of the inset stories; in The Thief the title character tells stories to his companions along the way. Lin's book also reminded me of Catherynne Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, because Meili and Dragon have at least a little bit in common with September and A-Through-L. Anyway, I highly recommend all three books to readers of all ages.

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