Minli and her parents live in the shadow of the Fruitless Mountain. Their village is poor and they work hard for the little rice they have. Minli’s father fills her head with folktales about the Fruitless Mountain and the all-knowing Old Man of the Moon. Her mother is more practical and is disapproving of Ba as he fills Minli’s head with dreams.
Saddened by her family’s suffering, Minli sets out on a quest to meet the Old Man of the Moon and find a way to restore prosperity to her village. With directions from a talking goldfish she heads off on her journey. Soon she encounters a dragon who has been tied up by monkeys. In freeing the dragon she has made a true friend who continues with Minli on her quest. He is not the last one who will help her though. Minli encounters may others whose kindness and generosity help guide her. The chapters are enhanced by beautiful illustrations and folktales which serve both to guide Minli and share lessons with the reader.
Age Recommendation: Grades 3 and up. Many third grade students of mine have read and enjoyed this book. The vocabulary can be quite advanced however: magistrate, coveted, pitiless, subordinates, conceited, emissary.
Great for: Anyone looking for a strong female character. Minli’s faith, bravery and concern for others are what propel her on her quest. While she certainly receives help from those she meets, she most certainly does not require any type of rescuing.
This will be a huge hit with any fans of Mulan, as both feature a strong girl, a loveable dragon and a mission.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – In the tales told within this book, marriages are foreordained. At one point a boy sees seven girls swimming in a lake, they scream and grab their robes when they see him. His buffalo is sitting on the robe of one girl, but he looks away so that she might get it in privacy.
Profanity – None.
Death, Violence and Gore – There is violence and death in this book, but it is on a fairytale level and generally not scary. At the beginning we learn about a place where there is famine and the plants and animals are dying. In a story, the magistrate orders a baby girl stabbed (she does not die however). There are a few stories where parents die, leaving their children as orphans. One man defies fate and lives past his appointed death. A dangerous tiger features in the story. He injures many and his claws have poison making him even more deadly. Children are sent as a sacrifice to him. The tiger has killed all the livestock in town just for the sake of killing.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – None.