A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a charming fantasy with very low violence, making it a great family read-aloud for various ages. Minli's quest not only introduces her to many lessons about greed, but her mother also learns to value what is most important as she anxiously waits for her daughter to return.
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What's the story?
Minli is a young girl who is an only child in a very poor family in China. She helps her parents work hard in the fields all day long every day. At night her father loves to tell her stories, but her mother is full of sighs and complaints about their hard life. One day, to help find fortune for her beloved parents, Minli sets off to seek out a character from one of her father's tales known as the Old Man in the Moon. To find him, she must travel far away to the Never Ending Mountain. Along the way she meets a dragon who longs to fly, an orphaned shepherd boy, and a prince, and befriends them all. In return, they help her solve some riddles and help her find her way. In the meantime, Minli's parents are desperate for her return, but her father's stories and a talking goldfish help them cope, and Minli finds a different kind of fortune than she expected.
Is it any good?
This is a a beautiful book that is bound to become a classic. Lin's love of Asian culture is evident in her creation of vivid new folktales that are built into the narrative in such a way that they become a seamless part of the story and their messages are thus relevant and meaningful. Minli is a strong and lovable heroine that boys will enjoy as much as girls. This story has been called a Chinese Wizard of Oz, but in fact it has an even more timeless appeal and a universal story in the mother who wants more, the daughter who wants to repay her parents, the wise father, and the engaging characters she meets on her quest. The story also offers an elegant design with color illustrations and Asian graphic style that make the book itself a gem. Many children will read this book more than once, and it could well be one of your favorite Newbery books of all time.
Talk to your kids about ...
- Families can talk about what caused Minli to set off on her quest. What made her mother unhappy?
Of all the friends Minli made on her journey, who was your favorite? Are there dragons from other books or stories that remind you of this flying dragon?
Minli's parents were very different, although they lived in the same conditions. What do you think made Minli's mother unhappy with what she had? What made her change towards the end of the book? Was it Minli's absence, or her father's stories?
The folktales that Minli's father tells were created by the author, Grace Lin, although they were based on elements of traditional Chinese folktales. There are many American folktales, such as Paul Bunyan. Do American folktales teach lessons in the same way that these Chinese folktales do?
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