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