Every once in a while, being formulaic can produce splendid results. Take Grace Lin‘s 2010 Newbery Honor book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon – what made it so successful? Spunky, independent-minded young characters, intricately layered storytelling within the story, and, of course, Lin’s signature whimsical, illuminating illustrations.
Lin’s latest has all that … and more. Rendi, used to luxury and privilege, runs away in a fit of (well-justified) anger and finds himself working as a chore boy in Master Chao’s humble inn in the tiny Village of Clear Sky. After a less-than-amiable start, he begins a tentative friendship with Peiyi, the innkeeper’s young daughter, who soon reveals that life at the inn is not without strife, especially of the emotional kind: Peiyi’s older brother is missing, Master Chao and the next-door neighbor Widow Yan can’t even be civil to one another, their animosity forces Peiyi to hide her friendship with Widow Yan’s daughter, who in turn is clearly suffering from lovesickness for a certain missing someone. What is causing all this sadness and resentment? And has no one else realized that the moon is missing? And why does only Rendi seem to hear the nighttime crying?
When a mysterious new guest, Madame Chang, arrives at the near-empty inn, Rendi and Peiyi are quickly drawn to her … especially to her stories. But for every story she tells, Rendi must repay in kind with a tale of his own. Stories and life soon intertwine, from which Rendi begins to distill new truths, especially about his own faraway family.
If Mountain was about thankfulness, this new companion title celebrates the restorative power of forgiveness. In our overcommitted, overscheduled lives that can too often blind us to our own insincerity and impatience (and worse!), we could surely use regular reminders of the magically healing potential of two (heartfelt) small words, “I’m sorry.” I’m sure my own family will tell you I have more than my fair share to share, ahem. Better get started …
Readers: Middle Grade