Book review: 'Mountain' enchants with its magical tales

Published: Sunday, June 28 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

"WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON" by Grace Lin, Little Brown, ages 9-12, $16.99

The purpose of a book's cover is to catch a person's attention, to make them want to pick it up and read.

In the case of "Where the Mountain Meets the Moon," a book for young readers by Grace Lin, the beautiful cover is an extension of the excellently executed story and illustrations contained inside.

Based on Chinese folktales that enchanted Lin in her youth, "Mountain" is the story of a young girl and her quest to make life better for her family.

Minli and her parents live in the valley of Fruitless Mountain, a jagged black mountain on which nothing grows. Minli's family, like all the villagers, works hard in the fields, trying to coax rice from the barren, muddy land.

Everything in the village is dull and dreary. Everything that is, except Minli. The stories her father tells at night spark her imagination and fill her with light.

Minli's mother finds these tales to be a pointless distraction. But Minli believes them and sets out to find the Old Man of the Moon and ask him how to change her family's fortune.

On a voyage that takes her far from home, Minli encounters a number of dangerous tasks and magical creatures. The journey also teaches her the true definition of fortune and home.

"Mountain" is a delightful read that not only tells Minli's story, but numerous folktales as well. These ancient stories are woven seamlessly throughout, creating a magical tale ripe with history.

Exquisite illustrations are not limited to "Mountain's" cover. Full-color illustrations, also created by Lin, are found throughout. These, along with the woodcutlike drawings at the beginning of each chapter, push "Mountain" to the top of the pack when it comes to books for young readers.

"Where the Mountain Meets the Moon" is charming in its simplicity. Its timeless grace and easy accessibility will appeal to youths and parents alike.

E-mail: jharrison@desnews.com

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