Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin features a young girl, Minli, who lives in a poor village with her parents. Her father tells her stories each night, but her discontented mother says the stories are a waste. In an effort to make her family happy, Minli decides to go find the Old Man of the Moon from her father’s stories and ask how they can gain their fortune. At first, the book strongly resembles The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but the story quickly comes into its own.
What starts off as a simple quest story quickly becomes a rich tapestry. Everywhere that Minli goes, someone tells her a story, and little by little, the stories become interconnected. Minli learns the value of friendship and thankfulness, but Where the Mountain Meets the Moon has much more to teach.
Reading a book about a culture different than our own can show us a new way of thinking. Grace Lin, as a Chinese-American, has the advantage of a double perspective. These are the Eastern values that Where the Mountain Meets the Moon offers us.
The wisdom of honoring elders–Most American children’s books are all about the child. Adults are usually absent or bumbling. Not so in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Minli meets many wise and helpful adults on her quest. The book also follows her parents’ emotional journey as they wait for Minli to return.
The value of hospitality–Time and again on her journey, Minli is helped by those she meets. Those with much give her something precious and those with little share what they have, refusing any payment. They give without the hope of anything in return.
More than one perspective can be true–In one town Minli and Dragon visit, they must find an item essential to their quest. They each believe they have found the item, but the two objects are very different. Who is right? Both are. I believe in Absolute Truth, but it is true that different people can have their own, equally valid perspectives. Realizing that someone can see a situation differently than you without being wrong is a powerful lesson.
The power of contentedness–(spoiler alert!) Minli discovers on her journey that what her family needed to be truly happy was already in their power! Finding this out was a very powerful and poignant part of the story.
Everything is connected–Even though kids tend to think the world revolves around them, they don’t really believe that what they do has a broad effect on others. The interconnectedness of Minli’s journey to the many stories told in the book will help kids to see that everything is connected.
I can’t say how much I liked this book. The beginning is a bit slow, but once the pieces begin to fit together, you won’t be able to put it down.
We also love Grace Lin’s picture books about Ling and Ting.
What book has introduced your kids to a different culture?