Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Rarely do I ever find a book like this and to have bought this on a whim = incredible and awesome. I was just walking by the rows and rows of books, laminating to myself “oh books books everywhere, where’s the one for me?” When I stopped in my tracks so fast I would have tipped over and fell flat on my face if my quick reflex had not kicked in and I clung onto dear shelf. I’m horrible for doing it, but sometimes judge books by their covers.


*cowers in the corner shivering* Please don’t judge me.

Now you know one of my darkest secrets, I like nice covers and it sometimes influences me to buy…at random. I’m so sorry writing gods! It’s horribly shallow of me, but some covers just made me wonder what drug those people were on… Now, back to the topic…I saw this cover and fell in love. Just take a look at it, is it not just adorable? How does this cover not just a whisper of the ancient stories I heard while huddled next to those of our Grandparents’ generation?

Much like older generations oral tales, the narrative of this book reminded me of Arabian Nights’ story within a story. The main storyline was of Minli and her quest and through her adventure the reader was introduced to the stories of others. The writings were beautifully interwoven with slightly altered collection of well known Chinese folklores and stories. It was especially entertaining for me to recognize almost all the sources of the many tales written, the tweaks/versions and how it was important to the main storyline. So many Chinese folktales in there I grew up with, a wave of nostalgia took root and refused to go away until I watched some Tales of a Chinese Ghost Studio and re-read some more. :D

A fantasy adventure story of a young girl set out with one goal: to help her family. Along the way, she befriends a dragon, met the Emperor and learns a valuable lesson. I really would love more stories with a strong and smart young heroine on an adventure. Not full of angst and love triangles or some doomness in life (even though there were dangers and a few scares). Here, even when the main character was separated from the parents, we do not have the usual absentee adults. Heck, when Minlin first ran away, her parents dropped everything and tried find her. They gave up a little earlier than I expected and resigned themselves to waiting, but even so, the parents was not just written off. Imagine that, parents that exist in the young adult world. ;) Throughout the story, on top of the adventure story of Minlin, we continued to see growth in the adults. How cool was that?

Ok, I’m just super biased, but I can’t help it! This was just such a refreshing read. It was simple and straight forward. There were a few surprises as well as some expected revelation. I especially enjoyed the fact that we learn through stories. As Minli traveled on her quest, the characters she met would tell their stories from their own point of view. Whether it be a goldfish, the lion statues at the gate, or the lucky children she met, they all had a story to tell and somehow, they all blended together.
And was this not what we do everyday?

Even when we ask “hey, how’s it going?” We, intentionally or not, were asking an individual to recount an experience for the day/week/month/year as form of ‘oral story telling,” but I digress yet again. You can always tell my love for fairytales. Sometimes I wondered why I never went into folklore…oh yeah, sold everything for sense of security… boo!

The writing was for a younger audience, but the prose was very smooth and descriptive enough to satisfy an older audience. Such a simple story which made it a very quick read. I was also very surprised the author also drew the designs and pictures in the book. I’m also not sure how she did it, but even the titles were in color. Awesome. Every aspect while reading this reminded me for a parent cuddling a young child in bed late at night reading this book. I love how tradition was interlinked, how there was a story to every reason why. Using stories to teach and explain, this was how elders taught children back in the day. I think the stories in this book would work as a good introduction for anyone unfamiliar with Chinese mythologies and folklores.

I definitely recommend this book and look forward to reading more from this author in the future. And why didn’t I have these wonderful books growing up? Maybe I would’ve been a little less twisted. Hahaha.

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