Friday, January 8, 2010

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Minli and her parents live in a poor village near Fruitless Mountain. Minli loves to hear her father tell the old stories, but her mother thinks they're a waste of time. No stories can change her family's fortune. Faced with her mother's sadness and frustration, Minli sets out to do just that. With the help of a talking goldfish, a painted dragon, and a few other friends she finds along the way, Minli begins to realize that her story is a continuation of the ancient tales her father has always told. Can she change her family's fortune and give history a happy ending?

Visually, this book is stunning. The illustrations are designed to look like Chinese tapestries, and the drawings that begin each chapter look like my favorite Chinese paper cuttings. The old stories told throughout the narrative are printed in a different font, making them seem older still. The thicker than usual paper adds to the historical feel of the book.

Minli is spunky, smart and kind. Her journey recalls that of Dorothy Gayle in the land of Oz, in a fresh and fantastic way. I'd recommend this enchanting book to fairy tale fans and anyone who likes a good story, beautifully told.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Rampant by Diana Peterfreund

Astrid’s always just believed her mother was crazy. It was the only explanation that made sense. After all, who would believe a woman that ranted and raved about man-eating unicorns was in her right mind? But that was before. Now, Astrid has no choice but to accept that her mother was right. There are unicorns in the world, and not the pretty, sparkly kind from children’s picture books. Only the female descendants of Alexander the Great can take them on, so Astrid and her newly discovered distant relatives are on the fast track for warrior training. They’ve got to learn to fight the unicorns, before it’s too late.

Diana Peterfreund has managed to turn mythology on its ear with this exciting new tale. As with any book in the “everything you thought you knew is a lie” strain of fiction, there’s a lot of exposition to be had. However, Ms. Peterfreund has managed to fit the exposition in amongst the action in a near perfect balance that keeps the reader following along, always ready for more. The ending leaves open the possibility of a sequel, but the story is by no means incomplete in and of itself. Rampant is altogether enjoyable, and well worth your time.