Monday, June 29, 2009

Blog Tour Review: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon


Author:  Grace Lin
Review Copy Provided by:  Little, Brown

Grace Lin's book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, will be released on July 1st.  She is hosting an online book launch on her facebook fanpage and on her online book launch page.  She would love it if you would join her as she launches her book! 
Grace was nice enough to answer some questions for those of us on the tour, so make sure you check out the other tour stops to see what she has to say.  Here are my questions and her answers.

In the story, Minli's father tells her folktales.  Did you listen to folktales growing up?  If so, what were they?

I did not listen to folktales when I was growing up, but I did read them.  I loved fairy tales and my mother sneaked in some Asian folktale/fairytale books into my library.  So, as a child I read almost all the traditional European ones—from Grimm’s , Hans Christian Anderson,  to Howard Pyle and Kate Greenaway; and a good many of the Asian ones. “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” is very, very roughly on a Chinese tale called “Olive Lake.” However, I took quite a bit of creative license—there is no Fruitless Mountain, Magistrate or Paper of Happiness in the tale and the protagonist of that story is an adult male!

Your sisters are scientists.  What did your parents think of your career choice? Have their thoughts changed?

Well, my parents were quite horrified when I decided to go to art school to pursue children’s book illustration. But even though they did not really understand, they tried their best to support me.  But over the years, they have really come around and seem to be very proud! My mother is always telling people to buy my books. And they were especially pleased on how I portrayed them in “The Year of the Dog,” though my older sister insists my father was never that funny.

The story was somewhat inspired by your travels; what else inspired this book?

Well, this story first was inspired by the folktales and fairytales of both Asian and European/American cultures that I read and loved as a child.I grew up in Upstate NY, the only Asian (except for my sisters) in my school. Because of this, my childhood was always tinged with a strange sense of identity. Was I Chinese? Taiwanese? American?

Books and stories were always a source of comfort. I loved folktales and fairy tales as a child. I loved the classics, “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” “The Light Princess,” and "The Wizard of Oz"—all with gorgeous illustrations, which I devoured and gazed at in awe.

It was because of my love for these stories, that my mother knew she could pique my interest with the Chinese fairy tale books. At the time, she regretted that I knew and had so little interest in our cultural heritage—this was a way of “sneaking” it in. And it worked!

I began reading the Chinese folktales, and was at first disappointed. Used to lush illustrations and descriptions, the Asian books were plainly translated with an occasional simple b/w line drawings and seemed an inadequate comparison. However, slowly I discovered the stories had a magic and I began to imagine details of my own, tinged with Asian-American sensibilities. When I grew older and was able to travel Hong Kong, Taiwan and China--the stories came alive.

And "Where the Mountain Meets the Moon" came into existence. An homage to the folktales and fairy tales I read in my youth, it is a mixture of Asian fairytales and North American classics. Not a traditional retelling of stories from either cultures, it is a mix-- like me, Asian-American. Hopefully, it is full of the magic from both that will satisfy readers everywhere.

My travels to Hong Kong, Taiwan and China brought the settings of the story to life for me, inspiring the imagery. Well, when I first began writing this book, I had visited Hong Kong ( and Taiwan which were wonderful trips. Being Asian-American (and more American than Asian) it was a fascinating experience to be surrounded by a culture that was so foreign and familiar at the same time. Whenever I viewed the landscape, saw a temple or a sampan in the water, I suddenly would remember the Chinese folktales I had read as a child. I could see them happening in the setting around me and I knew in there was a book waiting to be written.

I was almost 3/4th finished with the writing the book when I went to visit China ( This was the perfect time to go, as I had an idea of what kinds of things I wanted to see and research there but the book was still open enough to be changed. And it was wonderful! Actually seeing China with my own eyes and experiencing it added such a rich layer to the story. For example, one of the excursions we took especially for the book was a visit to a tiny mountain village ( I wanted to see a mountain village because I knew Minli (the main character in “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” ) would be visiting one. The whole time we were there, we were freezing cold but the villagers were so friendly and red-cheeked (which I was to find out later was wind-burn, not good circulation). So, those element of mountain cold and a warm, friendly shelter became the back drop of the village Minli visits.

Wow!  Thank you so much for sharing your inspiration for the book and other thoughts with us.

About the Book:  In the valley of Fruitless mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man on the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life's questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man on the Moon to ask him how she can change her family's fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest for the ultimate answer.

My Review:  What a good book!  Where the Mountain Meets the Moon  is just a fun, inspiring, feel good read.  I enjoyed the mix of narrative with the folk tales in this book.  It gives you a glimpse into the lifestyle, culture and beliefs of the Asian people.  Without the folk tales, you wouldn't fully understand the story.  Each one is put in the book, in a certain place, for a reason.  This middle-grade book is a different read with a great message.  Children don't always understand that they can be happy with what they have, they always long for more.  Minli shows us that sometimes it's better to sacrifice what you want for the sake of a friend.  This is something that all children can learn from.  I really like the message in this story.  

Minli is such a strong character.  She knows what she wants and goes for it!  Even when faced with adversity, and nay-sayers, she presses on.  Her goal, to find the Old Man of the Moon.  Along the way, she meets some very interesting animals and people who help her and whom she'll never forget.  Each character is important to the story.  My favorite, besides Minli, are the twins, Da-Fu and A-Fu.  They add alot of humor to the story.

Grace Lin gets 5 out of 5 stars for Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.
Make sure you visit the next stop on the tour: The Mommy-Files.


Harvee said...

I enjoyed your author interview with Grace. I think China is so interesting and would be a great place to visit.

Grace Lin said...

Thanks so much for hosting me! 5 star review, wow! Thrilled that you enjoyed the book.

bermudaonion said...

The book sounds good and the picture of the author is adorable!

Nan said...

I loved this book! I read one of Grace Lin's other books, The Year of the Dog (one of my all time favorite books), with a third grade after school book club. My kiddos wrote to Grace Lin, telling her how much they loved her book. And she was so kind ... she wrote back to each kiddo and sent them an autographed book plate. She mailed me an advanced copy of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. The kids in my after school group were thrilled to get the letters and book plates and I loved the book!

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