By Grace Lin, the 2020 Karla Harry Visiting Author
Mulan Before the Sword
Family is important to Hua Mulan even if her parents don’t understand why she would rather ride her horse, Black Wind, than weave, or how her notorious clumsiness can be so different from the graceful demeanor of her younger sister, Xiu. But despite their differences, Mulan has a deep love for her family, especially Xiu. So when her sister is bitten by a poisonous spider, Mulan does everything she can to help, including seeking out a renowned healer. However, it quickly becomes apparent that there is more to both the mysterious spider bite and the healer than meets the eye. On a quest with the Jade Rabbit of legend, Mulan visits extraordinary places, meets Immortals, and faces incredible obstacles while searching for an antidote for her sister. And the danger only rises when Mulan learns of a prophecy foretelling that a member of the Hua family will one day save the Emperor and of the powerful enemies who will stop at nothing to prevent it from coming to pass. This prequel to the upcoming film of Mulan was especially written by award-winning author Grace Lin. (From the publisher)
Fifth to eighth grade
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
In this enchanted and enchanting adventure, Minli, whose name means “quick thinking,” lives with her desperately poor parents at the confluence of Fruitless Mountain and the Jade River. While her mother worries and complains about their lot, her father brightens their evenings with storytelling. One day, after a goldfish salesman promises that his wares will bring good luck, Minli spends one of her only two coins in an effort to help her family. After her mother ridicules what she believes to be a foolish purchase, Minli sets out to find the Old Man of the Moon, who, it is told, may impart the true secret to good fortune. Along the way, she finds excitement, danger, humor, magic, and wisdom, and she befriends a flightless dragon, a talking fish, and other companions and helpmates in her quest. With beautiful language, Lin creates a strong, memorable heroine and a mystical land. Stories, drawn from a rich history of Chinese folktales, weave throughout her narrative, deepening the sense of both the characters and the setting and smoothly furthering the plot. Children will embrace this accessible, timeless story about the evil of greed and the joy of gratitude. Lin’s own full-color drawings open each chapter.
Fifth to eighth grade
The Starry River of the Sky
This mesmerizing companion to the Newbery Honor Book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (2009) does not disappoint. Rendi has run away from home, stowed in the back of a merchant’s cart, until he is discovered and left stranded in the scarcely populated Village of Clear Sky. There he becomes the innkeeper’s chore boy and is introduced to a cast of characters, including Mr. Shan, a wise older man; Madame Chang, a mysterious out-of-town guest with a gift for storytelling; and a toad whom Mr. Shan calls Rabbit. All the while, the moon is missing, and it seems only Rendi is tormented by the sky’s sad wailing noises at night. Madame Chang insists that for each story she tells—including one about ruler Wang Yi’s wife, who transformed into a toad and lived out the rest of her days on the moon—Rendi must tell one of his own. Unlike its predecessor, this novel is stationary in setting, but it offers up similar stories based on Chinese folklore that interweave with and advance the main narrative. Each of the tales reveals something important about the teller, and most offer a key piece of the mysterious puzzle: what happened to the moon? A few characters from Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, including Magistrate Tiger, appear on the periphery of the action. Lin’s writing is clear and lyrical, her plotting complex, and her illustrations magical, all of which make this a book to be savored.
Fifth to eighth grade
When the Sea Turned to Silver
(Companion book to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon)
Pinmei’s gentle, loving grandmother always has the most thrilling tales for her granddaughter and the other villagers. However, the peace is shattered one night when soldiers of the Emperor arrive and kidnap the storyteller. Everyone knows that the Emperor wants something called the Luminous Stone That Lights the Night. Determined to have her grandmother returned, Pinmei embarks on a journey to find the Luminous Stone alongside her friend Yishan, a mysterious boy who seems to have his own secrets to hide. Together, the two must face obstacles usually found only in legends to find the Luminous Stone and save Pinmei’s grandmother--before it’s too late. (from the publisher)