In a fantasy story inspired by Chinese folktales, Grace Lin weaves together a number of smaller folk-tale-like stories told by the various characters.
Beginning with Minli, a young girl whose family lives in a town at the bottom of the Fruitless Mountain, we are introduced to a community where long days of backbreaking work in fields and little pay are commonplace.
Minli's father spends the evenings telling her fantastic stories, ranging from the "Jade Dragon" to the "Old Man of the Moon." Her mother, on the other hand, is less enthusiastic about her daughter listening to these stories. She believes them to be a distraction from the real world, and thus sure to leave her daughter ill-prepared to face reality.
One day, acting on her father's advice, Minli decides to find how to turn her family's fortune from the Old Man of the Moon. In her journey, we are introduced to unique and endearing characters that she runs into.
Avoiding a forced or very stiff narrative, Lin has the smaller folk-tale stories occur the right amount of times throughout the novel. As well, she masterly transitions from the folk tales to the main story forming one bigger story.
The combination of the wonderful characters and the great story telling makes this novel stand out. Its impact is sure to stay with many readers even after the reading is done. Although marketed to middle-grade readers, I believe adults can fall in love and gain insight from the story as well.
By Windy Amimo
Submitted: March 31, 2013
This intriguing read weaves beauty, wonder and intricate stories into a backdrop of Asian culture. Depicting the journey of a young girl who is seeking to change her fortune in order to make her mother happy, this is a fascinating story of dragons, a ferocious beast, and a goldfish man.
Following Minli through her journey of fear and wonder, you realize that, if the ones you love are close, you have all you need. The young at heart will enjoy this book with stories full of detail for the imagination to capture each scene. I recommend it for any readers that enjoy different cultures and a little of magic and hope.