This little book came to me almost entirely by accident. I found it in a used book store, which I was only perusing because a friend of mine was late for our dinner plans. By all rights I should never have come across this little beauty, but when I saw this gorgeously designed cover peering out at me from the young adult section, I just had to investigate further:
I know you’re not suppose to judge a book by its cover, but–LOOK at this thing. That is a GORGEOUS cover design. And it’s not just the cover. The whole interior of the book is carefully laid out with different fonts and colored chapter illustrations and lettering. This book design is a work of art, and I bought it purely on that basis.
As it turns out, the book lives up to the design: gorgeous.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is the story of Minli, a poor farmer’s daughter who sets out from her home to change her family’s fortune. Her story is a classic adventure tale, with Minli wandering across the countryside, making friends and solving problems, and all the while learning the true value of family. Where this book differs from other adventuresome middle-readers is its careful attention to story itself as a means of education and betterment. The different fairytales and myths that Minli and her friends encounter are pulled away from the story and laid out in their own elegantly designed sections, so that you could string them together into a cute little book of fairytales independent of the longer narrative. These tales are all newly invented, but their style and aesthetic are deeply rooted in Chinese mythology. The end effect is a kind of Chinese version of Wizard of Oz, where instead of silver slippers Minli gets a dragon.
Another notable digression in this book is its parallel narratives between Minli, the adventurer, and her parents Ma and Ba, the ones left behind. Most children’s adventure stories almost entirely ignore the world the child has left behind for the duration of the story, relegating parents and communities to the position of welcome-home-party. In Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Ma and Ba not only get their own chapters, but they get whole character arcs, during which they come to terms with their relative responsibilities for Minli deciding to leave, and then make peace with their poor-but-rich-in-love lifestyle.
Full of colorful characters, even more colorful illustrations, and a whole lot of moralizing that doesn’t feel like moralizing, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon was like a breath of fresh literary air, especially after some of the absolute crap I’ve been reading lately. It’s also super, duper short, and would lend itself well to bedtime stories if you have kids and like to read aloud. Basically, there is no reason not to read this book. It is delightful and adorable and well worthy of its Newbery medal.
“You only lose what you cling to.” –Where the Mountain Meets the Moon