This week is A More Diverse Universe Blog Tour, which I’m not actually formally participating in (as in, by signing up to their list) but which I want to honor by recommending some books.
I start today with Middle Grade novel WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON, by Grace Lin.
I picked this novel up because it is on the reading list for the Sirens Conference (a conference on women in fantasy literature) which I am attending in October. I don’t read a lot of Middle Grade as it doesn’t usually hit my sweet spot. The MG novels I enjoy most tend to rely heavily on an interesting world (e.g. Stephanie Burgis’s A TANGLE OF MAGICKS). Lin’s novel meets the challenge easily. It’s a marvelous story.
Minli lives in poverty with her parents, and goes on a quest to find the Old Man on the Moon to try and solve her family’s problems. The setting is based on Chinese folklore without the setting ever being identified as a “fantasy China.” It doesn’t need to be because it is the place Minli lives.
First of all, WTMMTM has spare, effective, and lovely writing. It is written in the manner of a folk tale expanded with more tales being told inside it by other people and creatures. All the tales eventually curl around to become part of the main tale and the solution, and from a deceptively simple start Lin uses the tales to build and enhance the whole. It is a pleasure to read, and it has that folkloric thing where there is a moral or lesson and yet without it being at all heavy-handed or stilted; what Minli (and we) learn flows naturally from the course of the tale, and it speaks to all hearts.