Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. Read by Janet Song
Once upon a time in China, there was a village on Fruitless Mountain where everything was brown with dust and nothing grew. In that village, the only thing with color is Minli, a girl whose hair is glossy black and whose cheeks are pink. Although she works just as hard in the rice fields as anyone else, her joy is listening to the tales of magic that her Da tells her every evening, even though her mother is convinced that they are a waste of time. One day, a goldfish seller comes into town. This sets off a chain of events that leads to Minli going on a journey to find the Old Man of the Moon, who has the Book of Fortune, so that Minli can ask him how to bring life to Fruitless Mountain*. On the way, she meets a dragon who wants to ask the Old Man of the Moon why he can’t fly. The main narrative is woven through with other stories, those that Da tells or that Minli hears along the way. At first, they seem to be just another poetic detail in an already lyrical story, but as Minli’s journey goes on, she meets more and more characters from the stories, all of them interconnected in ways that the original stories didn’t hint at. This was a Newbury Honor book, and I’m not sure how I missed it when it first came out last year. Lightening Bolt loved it until I made the mistake of showing him that I’d gotten Dealing with Dragons to listen to next**, but I had to make myself switch to my own book after dropping him off. Though LB might enjoy this more when he’s a bit older, I’d recommend this now to readers of Donna Jo Napoli.
*Thus are two basic plots combined – a stranger comes to town and someone goes on a journey.
** Why yes, he is on a dragon kick of late. How did you guess?