Friday, March 1, 2013
Starry River of the Sky
In this companion to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Rendi stows away in a merchant's cart and ends up in the Village of Clear Sky where he is reluctantly taken in by Master Chao who runs the Inn at Clear Sky. All Rendi wants to do is keep running away, but the errands at the inn keep him busy during the day and the howling of the night keeps him from sleep. He thinks that he can't possibly be the only one to hear it, but it does seem that way. The inhabitant's of the inn are a strange bunch. There is Mr. Shan, an old man who seems confused and lost most of the time, Madame Chang, who arrived mysteriously one day full of stories and wisdom and little Peiyi, Master Chao's daughter, who is mourning her brother who recently ran away.
Just like in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, the side stories all form one long narrative that effects the main plot. And as Madame Chang says, the stories we tell say a lot about us. This book is lovely and moves quite quickly due to short chapters and all of the stories within the story. This is a rich book that is easily accessible for young readers and would make a wonderful read aloud.
I was personally very excited to hear that Grace Lin wrote another book full of folktales and legends. I feel that books like this encourage children to read back through the old legends that inspire modern stories. Here, Rendi is running away, but realizes in the end that what he wants most is to return home. In some ways, that is similar to Lin's experience with her culture, as told in the endnotes. Lin admits that as a child, her parents did their best to interest her in her heritage, but that she wanted nothing to do with it until she was older. That's a feeling that many young people have. It's almost like your childhood was worthless until you look back on it with longing as an adult.
But I'm getting off the main topic. What I love most about Starry River of the Sky is that it is so readable. The chapters are short and not intimidating to beginning readers, the stories included feel like individual events, and most readers won't realize until the end how they fit together. The action is not overly scary, so even the youngest children could enjoy this book if it is read aloud. Plus the writing is so descriptive and lovely that it is like you are there with Rendi at the lake, on the bridge, trying to roll the moon.
This book gives me the same kind of feeling as Liesl and Po. There are loving characters, some danger and action, and you come away feeling full of hope and promise. Have I said that word lovely enough? That's the best word to describe this book.
Well, I have read five middle grade books in a row, so it's back to YA books for me. At least for a while. My goal this weekend is to send out my book reviews and get halfway through Eleanor and Park. I also have several galleys stacking up so I'm taking a break from the library to focus on my collection for a while.
That's my plan. Let's hope that I stick to it!