Per Fidem Intrepidus (Translation: Fearless through faith)
In Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin we meet a girl named Minli who is determined to change her family’s fortune. Both her parents work all day in the fields for just enough food to put on the table. Her father passes the night by story telling while her mother “sighs” over their misery constantly.
One day a man selling goldfish arrives in their town known as Fruitless Mountain since food here is hard to grow. Minli spends her precious coin on a goldfish, upsetting her mother. Hence, Minli decides to release the goldfish into the river. When she does, the goldfish speaks to her and tells her he knows how to find the Old Man of the Moon who knows how to change their fortune. With that, she is off on her adventures!
Along the way, Minli meets a dragon who can’t fly. She tells him about the Old Man of the Moon, and he decides to accompany her on her journey. She meets villagers who help her and encounters an evil tiger who wants to eat her! When Minli does finally find the Old Man of the Moon, she is told she can only ask one question. She is torn: she can either ask how to change her fortune or ask how the Dragon can fly.
She asked for the Dragon, saying, “I didn’t ask the question because I don’t need to know the answer.” Minli had discovered the key to her fortune: family and gratitude.
Minli returns home atop the Dragon who can now fly. The Dragon decides to stay and he changes Fruitless Mountain from brown to green. She gives the Dragon’s pearl that had been preventing him from flying to a king who had helped her along the way. The king gives the village utensils to sow the ground and much more. All prosper because Minli asked the question for the Dragon.
Great story about putting others first and acting selflessly, which leads to everyone prospering. Very, very quick read. The writing style is simple and moves the story along. 2010 Newbery Honor Book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin is a must-read for all!
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt, a 2009 Newbery Honor Book, is a powerful book not to be missed.
Ranger, a neglected dog, lives under the deck of a tilting house in the middle of a Louisiana swamp. His owner known as Gar Face is an outcast in society. He banished Ranger for coming between him and a kill and Ranger has been chained ever since.
One day a mother cat (herself abandoned) wanders in the swamp and finds Ranger. They become quick friends and companions. She soon has two kittens, a boy and a girl named Puck and Sabine.
They work together to raise the kittens. She hunts and shares with Ranger. Ranger guards the kitties.
One day Gar Face sees the cats. He captures Puck and the mother cat and throws them into the swamp where only Puck survives. Alone and frightened, Puck does his best to survive.
Meanwhile, we learn about an ancient creature known as Grandmother Moccasin who herself is a water moccasin. She has been entombed in a clay jar buried under an ancient tree for a thousand years. Her story is interwoven with the three animal’s. We learn she was banished because she was selfish and wanted her daughter for herself whom had chosen to leave Grandmother and cleave to her husband. Another ancient creature, the Alligator King, himself as old as she toys with Gar Face as Gar Face becomes obsessed with killing him.
Through hardships and more misfortunes the three-some end up together at the end. Grandmother Moccasin chooses love over all else. And love binds the three friends together.
This is a heartfelt book that had me close to tears many times. It’s the classic story of how love conquers all but applied to animals in a very realistic manner. Promises are broken and the consequences are deadly. Gar Face is filled with hate. Happiness is as mystical and fragile as a glass ornament. Heartfelt and moving, this book is a page-turner not to be missed.
Warning for those with young children: it may not be appropriate as it deals with heavy themes. The mother kitten dies. The dog is abused. Grandmother’s daughter pines away and dies when she is separated from her husband. And Gar Face is eaten by the Alligator King. Love definitely endures, but it is not sugar-coated as in real life.