October 25, 2010

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Ooh, good one.  I don't keep up with too much of the book award craziness, but I'll just bet that some people feel this deserved gold.  That's the great and terrible thing about book awards: so many good books to pick from!

I'm sure this has and/or will win a slew of them.  Kids will love it because parents and teachers will read it out loud to them.  This one begs to be read aloud.  It has the tone of an ancient folktale and the added benefit of tales within the main tale so it's like a book of connected short stories re-emphasizing one of the themes: the power and importance of stories themselves.

It's about a girl in a poor village whose main delight is hearing her father's fantastical tales.  This does not brighten the mood of the mother who is bitter at their low station in life.  Eventually, the daughter runs off to try to bring fortune to the family.  Her subsequent amazing and magical adventures and the many stories she hears at first seem like separate pieces but, of course, by the end all fit together nicely.

That short summary hardly does it justice and reveals some more of the major themes.  "Fortune", and it's many meanings.  High and low stations in life and how to move between them.  What is good fortune?  What is bad?  What price greed?  How can you tell true happiness?

I also found it interesting that the parents remain an important aspect of the story.  So many of these types of tales involve dead or absent parents so the protagonist must be completely independent.  These parents are caring and miss their daughter terribly.  Minli ("quick thinking") misses her parents as well and is determined to return to them.  This distance, essential to the tale, becomes one of the more poignant aspects of the book and a theme as well as other parents, or separated families or absent parents or happy families are introduced throughout the story.

Excellent and highly recommended for around 8 to 12 year olds.  But I'm in my forties and I loved it, so there you go.

Hand-painted color illustrations by the author.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

6 comments:

klonghall said...

I adore this book! I want to add it to our school's Book Club list when it comes out in paperback. We are reading it in my grown- up book group in March. I'm interested to see what I notice on the second read. I rarely like to reread a book, but this one has so many levels to consider. I think we'll have a great discussion with it.

I kind of tricked my 5th grader into reading it. He was out of books, so he agreed to humor my selection for him. "I'm not really into folk tales," he said. But, it was bedtime & he needed something to read. By the next night, he was devouring it. He absolutely loved the story & admitted I was right about this book. HA!

Jim Randolph said...

klonghall,

I can see why you'd have to trick someone into it. Especially a boy. It does LOOK young and "classical" which could be off-putting for someone wanting something more contemporary. But it's timeless, no? It reminded me of an older version My Father's Dragon. If they dig that in 2nd (and almost everyone does...)

Victoria said...

I'm so glad Kim suggested this for our book group. I tried to get Rachel to read it without success, but I hope she comes around. I love how all the threads weave together. Fantastic review!

Peaceful Reader said...

I am in the middle of reading this book right now and love it also. The only reason I'm not already finished with it is I've used it as my reading around the library book-modeling good reading behavior to the 4th/5th grade group-some of which think good reading involves chatting:)

Jim Randolph said...

Victoria,

She'll dig it if you read some out loud.

P.R.,

4th/5th chatty? I am so surprised. (not).

betweenthesepages said...

I haven't read this yet because when I took it out from the library last year I could not pry it from the hands of my students. I had one boy read Lin's Year of the Dog and like it, which morphed into lengthy hold lists on my classroom books for all of her books. I'm seriously going to need to borrow those boys back this year to use their powerful cool (because these were the popular athlete boys too) 4th grade boy mojo to sell her stuff to my third graders! Our school library has a copy now so I'm hoping to get a turn with it.