From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 3-6–Living in the shadow of the Fruitless Mountain, Minli and her parents spend their days working in the rice fields, barely growing enough to feed themselves. Every night, Minli's father tells her stories about the Jade Dragon that keeps the mountain bare, the greedy and mean Magistrate Tiger, and the Old Man of the Moon who holds everyone's destiny. Determined to change her family's fortune, Minli sets out to find the Old Man of the Moon, urged on by a talking goldfish who gives her clues to complete her journey. Along the way she makes new friends including a flightless dragon and an orphan and proves her resourcefulness when she tricks a group of greedy monkeys and gets help from a king. Interwoven with Minli's quest are tales told by her father and by those she meets on the way. While these tales are original to Lin, many characters, settings, and themes are taken from traditional Chinese folklore. The author's writing is elegant, and her full-color illustrations are stunning. Minli's determination to help her family, as well as the grief her parents feel at her absence, is compelling and thoroughly human.–Jennifer Rothschild, Prince George's County Memorial Library System, Oxon Hill, MD
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*Starred Review* 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. Grades 3-6. --Andrew Medlar