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Top 100 Children’s Novels #72: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

#72 Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (2009)
27 points

The first book that I’ve read in ages that I know I’ll read again and again. Simply lovely. – Pam Coughlan

The individual episodes are lovely in themselves, and it’s marvelous to watch them all come together. And I have to admit, I was holding back tears in the end. – Aaron Zenz

It was #81 on the last poll but that wasn’t all that long after its publication.  Time has passed, more people have read it, and as a result it climbs up to #72.  Now with yet another Lin book in a similar vein due out this fall we may see her get a proper Newbery at last.   Who knows?

Note that when books win Newbery Honors, as this one just did, they aren’t usually as beloved as Lin’s deft melding of Chinese folktales and her own original storytelling.  Newbery Honors do not immediately equate love and they CERTAINLY don’t equate eleven votes as a Top 100 chapter book favorite.  There’s something to this story.  You can already tell.

Aw, what the heck.  I’ll put in the book summary here that I wrote when I reviewed the title.  Seems fitting. Poor in the valley of Fruitless Mountain, young Minli and her family earn their daily rice by working and scraping in the fields near their home. Her sole joy comes at night when her father tells her wonderful stories of far away places. One day Minli buys a goldfish to improve her fortunes, but when her mother sees her “foolish” purchase, Minli frees the fish and sets it in the river. Little does she suspect that this single act will give her the impetus to seek her family’s fortune by leaving to find the Old Man of the Moon. Along the way Minli makes friends and outwits foes in her attempt to help not just herself but those she loves and cares about.

It won a Newbery Honor in 2010, beaten only by Rebecca Stead’s Award winning When You Reach Me.

  • The book is, was, and evermore shall be an Al’s Book Club Pick for December 2009.  Al, as in, Al Roker.
  • Read chapter one here.
  • Check out the website for the book, which happens to include everything from event kits to Skype chats.
  • And, of course, Grace Lin had a magnificent feature in an issue of SLJ (the one with the catchy cover).

gave it a star and said, “Stories, drawn from a rich history of Chinese folktales, weave throughout her narrative, deepening the sense of both the characters and the setting and smoothly furthering the plot. Children will embrace this accessible, timeless story about the evil of greed and the joy of gratitude. Lin’s own full-color drawings open each chapter.”

School Library Journal
also gave it a star and said, “The author’s writing is elegant, and her full-color illustrations are stunning. Minli’s determination to help her family, as well as the grief her parents feel at her absence, is compelling and thoroughly human.”

Even Kirkus starred it and said, “With her “lively and impulsive spirit,” Minli emerges a stalwart female role model who learns the importance of family, friendship and faith during her amazing journey. Richly hued illustrations reinforce the Chinese folk theme.”

There are lots of videos made for the book but none, in my opinion, beat this one from Aaron Zenz and his kids.  They made it for the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival and it is a real beauty.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.