MMGM (3/2/2020): Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Before we get to MMGM, I want to mention hugely exciting news: fellow MMGMer Joanne R. Fritz's MG debut, Everywhere Blue, is slated to be released in summer 2021 by publisher Holiday House! Read more on Fritz's blog here.

For MMGM, I am recommending Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin.




          The recipient of a Newbery Honor in 2010 (quite frankly, it probably could have won the Newbery Medal if When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead had not come out in the same year), Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is one of the best books I have ever read. I am unsure why I waited so many years after reading it to review it (I recall reading the whole book in a 2-hour sitting), but I am glad that I did, as I am a much-better reviewer now than I was when I started this blog!
         Where the Mountain Meets the Moon tells the story of Minli, a girl who lives in an ancient village near the barren Fruitless Mountain whose people struggle to grow enough crops to sustain themselves. Minli lives with her Ma and Ba, who spend their days farming yet still have no money. Ba often tells Minli stories of dragons and evil magistrates, despite Ma's disapproval, and one of these stories eventually persuades Minli to leave home to find the fabled, wise Old Man of the Moon in hopes that he will know how to lift her family out of poverty. Minli's journey is far from lonesome and boring: she meets a real, live dragon early in the story, and their travels bring them to a variety of places with interesting people, creatures, and stories told aloud.
          There is so much to love about Where the Mountain Meets the Moon! First off, Minli is a wonderful protagonist. Her drive to help her family even if it means embarking on a solo journey is quite remarkable, and her ingenuity during many parts of the journey (according to the book, her name means "quick thinking") is noticeable as well. I also appreciate that there are a number of chapters from the perspective of Ma and Ba as they come to terms with Minli leaving in secret and their resulting feelings of guilt, panic, and hope.
          Throughout the novel, Minli encounters great cities with kings and palaces, villages with welcoming families, and forests with selfish monkeys and talking fish! Author Grace Lin's ability to show the beauty and history of any place and situation allows every moment of this book to shine. One particular moment that stuck with me is when Minli, in the midst of a prosperous city, meets a boy whose parents have died and who lives with only a water buffalo for company. This meeting gives Minli a new perspective on her own life: even without much money or prosperity, her family is still a family, and she is still loved and cared for.
          Where the Mountain Meets the Moon has an emphasis on stories. Virtually every character tells at least one story, of the long-gone past or of recent events, of magic, reality, or both. These stories set up interesting subplots that have already happened (throughout stories, readers start to learn the background of the evil Magistrate Tiger, who is no longer alive), and they are also masterfully intertwined with the real world, culminating in a beautiful, ingenious ending that reveals just how intentional every word of the stories and the main plot was.
          Last, I want to mention that Lin illustrated Where the Mountain Meets the Moon herself, from monochrome illustrations at the beginning of each chapter to several full-color, museum-worthy illustrations (such as that on the cover). Lin's illustrations perfectly set the scene for the novel and make the book even better.
         Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a beautiful, fun, expertly-constructed novel that is unlike any other MG book (besides its two companion novels, of course). Readers of all ages will be able to appreciate the well-developed characters, the varied and interesting plot, and the way in which every element and character is connected. Even though my review is already written, I love this book so much that I plan to keep reading through it and remembering how wonderful it is!

Update (1/2/2021): My rating is: Stunning!



Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book. I just loved this when I read it, and the other two companion books. Grace Lin really knows how to tell a great story.

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    1. She does! I also love her semi-memoir MG series, starting with The Year of the Dog, if you've never tried that!

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  2. What a stunning cover! I love Asian Art, so this book will go on my TBR list for that reason alone. Add in all of the great themes and your enthusiasm for the story, and I will be looking to read this book very soon! Thank you for sharing this treasure with us for MMGM.

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    1. Of course! I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did (which is to say, a lot)! (And I love the cover as well!)

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  3. I am so glad you reviewed this book today. I will definitely check it out because it out because it reminds me of an ancient Asian Mountain trilogy I cherish, written by Michelle Isenhoff -- Song of the Mountain, Fire on the Mountain, and Tears of the Mountain. Thank you for sharing "Where the Mountain Meets the Moon" !!!

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  4. I've been meaning to read this book since it first came out (and I still worked in the bookstore!). It sounds lovely.

    And I must say that is SO NICE of you to mention my upcoming novel at the beginning of your post and also in your sidebar! (I'm also looking forward to Rebecca Stead's new book, The List of Things That Will Not Change). You're sweet. Wish I knew your name! Thanks so much.

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    1. It is such a great book! And, about your book, of course! (And I am so excited for The List of Things That Will Not Change as well!)

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  5. I'm guilty too. I had planed on reading this book many years ago but the title got lost in my stack of requests. The story line is one I look forward to spending time with—yes, this is the year I will take care of my omission.

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  6. So excited for Joanne. I really enjoyed this book too. Grace Lin is going to be in Ann Arbor on Thursday. I'm sad that I can't go.

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  7. I do love that cover. I never have gotten around to reading this one, but it's on my list. I love stories that have stories in them. Thanks for the post.

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