“Pinmei looked at Yishan, but he did not meet her eyes. Instead, he was gazing upward. Another star was flying across the sky, making a silver scratch on the black-lacquered night.” page 191
When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin.
Little, Brown, and Company, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2016.
MG fantasy, 380 pages + extract.
Lexile: 750L .
AR Level: 5.3 (worth 9.0 points) .
Pinmei and her grandmother live simply high up on the mountain. Pinmei rarely ventures far from home, and hardly speaks to anyone beside her grandmother and friend Yishan. But she doesn’t need many words when her grandmother tells the most wondrous stories – until the emperor’s soldiers kidnap her grandmother and leave her with an impossible quest.
This is technically the third book in a series, but it’s very possible to read them out of order even though all three are set in the same world. I’ve already reviewed Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky. If you read those first, then this one will have all sorts of little connections to delight avid readers. But if you’ve accidentally started with this book instead, don’t worry, you can still enjoy the others!
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“Ling and Ting are twins. They are not exactly the same. Now when people see them, they know it too.” page 8
Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same! by Grace Lin.
Little, Brown, and Co., Hachette Book Group, New York, 2010.
Early chapter book, 48 pages.
Lexile: 390L .
AR Level: 1.8 (worth 0.5 points) .
Six short stories from the life of Chinese-American twins Ling and Ting.
It’s extremely difficult to find suitable early chapter books at all, let alone diverse and culturally appropriate ones. While the availability of novels and picture books are slowly improving, these essential early reader and early chapter book categories remain ridiculously white, able-bodied, etc.
I’ve written about a few we tried back when my last reader was transitioning, but got away from this series of reviews as he turned toward more complex books. Now that my next child is ready to make this transition, I’m going to try a few new-to-us series (and hopefully complete reviews for the ones we bought last time around).
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“Just like that, Rendi became the chore boy at the Inn of the Clear Sky. He was not used to doing chores, so when he found a broom in his hand, he had to watch Peiyi to learn how to sweep.” page 20
Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin.
Little, Brown, and Company, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2014.
MG fantasy, 289 pages + extras.
Lexile: 810L .
AR Level: 5.4 (worth 7.0 points) .
Runaway Rendi seems to be the only one who noticed that the moon is missing above the village of Clear Sky! He’s aching for someone to visit this remote village so he can stow away and leave again, but while he’s stuck here, can he unravel the peculiarities of this very odd village?
I was very uncertain about how this read would go (the first book in this series was a 2017 favorite) but Grace Lin has delivered another superb MG fantasy. One of the fascinating aspects of this series is that so far each book focuses on a different character and has an independent plot, although set in the same world.
The previous book was all about journeys. Both the exciting physical journey that Min-li went on, and to a lesser degree, the emotional journey that her parents take as they are left at home without her. In contrast, this book is remarkably stable. The cast of characters is noticeably smaller (although used to full effect) and the setting limited – most scenes take place in one small town and its bizarre surroundings.
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“But my friends didn’t call me Chinese, Taiwanese, or American. They called me Grace, my American name.” p. 19
The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin.
Little, Brown, and Co, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2006 (my edition 2007).
Realistic fiction, 140 pages + excerpts.
Lexile: 690L .
AR Level: 4.2 (worth 3.0 points) .
In the Year of the Dog, Pacy is supposed to find her best friend and figure out her talent. But what could it be?
This is one of those books that I’ve had for a while but didn’t pick up. I may have been saving it or planning to wait until we got another in the series, I’m just not sure. Anyway, this story tells about one year in Pacy’s life, starting with the Lunar New Year for the Year of the Dog and ending with the Lunar New Year for the Year of the Pig.
An aspect of this I didn’t expect was how there were stories embedded into the larger narrative, just like Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. These stories were realistic fiction instead of fantasy, but they worked the same way and I greatly enjoyed them. The stories allowed Pacy to be connected even if many of her relatives live far away.
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“What kept Minli from becoming dull and brown like the rest of the village were the stories her father told her every night at dinner.” page 3
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin.
Little Brown and Co, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2009. My edition 2011.
Middle grade fantasy, 279 pages plus Author’s Note and Reader’s Guide.
Lexile: 810L .
AR Level: 5.5 (worth 7.0 points) .
NOTE: This is a work of fiction although I’m not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.
Minli’s life in the Valley of the Fruitless Mountain is mostly drudgery, made easier by her father’s stories and more difficult to bear with her mother’s complaining. So she decides to listen to both and sets out on a quest for the Old Man of the Moon – a quest that will take her to unexpected places.
Although I didn’t know much about this one, I picked up a used copy because I’m familiar with some of Grace Lin’s picture books and recalled some reviews recommending it. I was absolutely blown away and need to read the rest of this series! I think the kids will like it too if they ever get around to reading it (we are so behind on reading).
This fantasy novel incorporates elements of Chinese culture and mythology but blends them into a new story. It utilizes stories-within-a-story plot devices very successfully.
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