Minli lives in a small, poor, rural village in the shadow of Fruitless Mountain (called so because it is barren of life). Her parents – Ma and Ba – work hard cultivating crops, but barely manage to get by. Ma is bitter and resentful about their misfortune and poor circumstances, and when Minli uses one of her copper coins to buy a goldfish to brighten up their lives, Ma scolds her for wasting money. Ba, however, remains positive and hopeful, and he shares this through his fantastic stories. Minli loves her father’s stories, and after hearing one, she decides that she will try to change her family’s fortune by seeking out the Old Man of the Moon, who is said to reside on Never-Ending Mountain. She learns the secret of how to find him from her goldfish, whom she releases into the Jade River. Along the way, Minli meets Dragon (a dragon who, for some reason, cannot fly) and convinces him to join her in her quest – if *she* can ask the Old Man of the Moon for help, surely Dragon can as well. They set off on an adventure that lasts many days. Minli’s parents are worried sick about her when she disappears. When they try to follow her, however, they find the goldfish seller, who convinces them to return home and wait for her return. He gives them a special goldfish, which begins speaking to Ba, and offers him advice and comfort. Minli’s journey takes her to new places and she meets many new people (and thinks of many new questions to ask) before finally reaching the Never-Ending Mountain. When she finally stands before the Old Man of the Moon, however (alone, because Dragon is not able to cross the bridge to the mountain), she is only allowed one question. Minli must decide which is most important. Grace Lin, the author, read volumes of Chinese stories and myths when she was a child and later, as an adult and an author, she wanted to share and explore them in her writing. Some of the tales she shares in this book are reflections of the stories she grew up with, others are her own. Together, they provide the inspiration and backdrop for Minli’s adventures. For readers who love folk and fairytales and stories with Asian flavor – this will delight!
* * * Stars Reviewed by Karin Thogersen, Young Adult Librarian