¶ … Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, and answers several questions covering topics from age appropriate content, theoretical perspectives, book summary, and opinion. Social conflict theory and Piaget's cognitive theory of development are briefly covered. Opinions on book selection will highlight the reasons for selecting such a book as well as whether or not the protagonist of the story is a positive role model or follows preconceived gender stereotypes.
Some topics like ethnic diversity will be explained as many books tend to focus on particular kind of character while others bring in a new and rare perspective. Grace Lin is an award winning children's author and her book has delighted children for years. Thanks to her effort, children get to see a hint of China's culture through the eyes of Minli and Dragon. The book is perfect for children ages 8-12 and a good choice for English classrooms grades 3-7.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin is a children's book published July 1, 2009. It was awarded several awards like the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for children's literature as well as the John Newbery Medal in 2010. With a target audience of children 8 and up and a grade level range of grades 3 through 7, Grace Lin managed to provide positive role models for her target demographic like Minli. Minli is a small girl from China that lives in a poor village due to the mountain surrounding the village producing no vegetation or having livestock. This is the main reason why I chose this book. Simply put, Minli represents what many kids face, dysfunctional families and limited access to resources.
Another reason is that the protagonist is a non-white female. While many great stories have amazing leading male characters, it is nice to read stories that have the protagonist be a female. More importantly, I like stories that have female protagonists that are non-white as it allows me exposure to cultures I may not have been familiar with in the past. In addition, unlike other stories I have read in the past, the protagonist is not rich or middle class. She is poor and runs away in order to find the Old Man of the Moon in order to improve her family and her village's fortune.
Growing up I did not have the kind of life Minli had, but I had struggles. Although at times I felt depressed and wanted to run away, I later learned to be grateful for what I had just as Minli did when she realized she had two parents that loved her unlike Minli's new friend, Buffalo Boy. The Fu twins, a symbol for friendship and good Samaritan effort were a welcome addition to the plot that not only showed the selfless effort of others to help those in need, but also show pieces of Chinese culture through the scenes. Lastly, I picked this book because these kinds of books teach a lesson about being kind and caring for others that I felt I would benefit to remind myself.
The theoretical perspective of the book centers on extreme upward mobility or a "rags-to-riches" story where Minli was very poor and now thanks to Dragon's stone ball is now rich enough to live her life well. These stories (very common in the K-12 education settings) have been embedded within the American culture for several generations. The social conflict model (theory) therefore, is an excellent model of theoretical perspective to help examine such a story because the kind of model is critical of the concept of shared values and norms based on inequality in modern society.
Rather than an honest consensus, shared values and norms are seen as philosophies that support the ruling order, perpetuating the disadvantaged status of those belonging in the subordinate groups. Going back to the rags to riches example, the American dream of rising from an impoverished...
Most people move up from the social position their background and their parents had/have. Often those that "rise" to the top are not poor people, but those from privileged backgrounds. Stories like Minli's give the illusion that the poor can be in power when in reality, the rich and privileged are.
There are many examples in the book of social conflict theory such as Minli attempting to improve her family's fortune to the condition of the people in the Village of the Fruitless Mountain. The beginning of chapter 2, "Every morning, before the sun rose, Minli, her mother, and father began work in the fields. It was planting season, which was especially grueling." (Lin 12) The earlier mentioned Buffalo Boy instance is another example. People that are poor not only experience hardship, but also dysfunctional family situations. Poor children may be in conflict with their own family members because financial hardship and lack of resource availability. Some may have broken families with only one parent or no parents.
Another interesting theoretical perspective to examine the story in is Piaget's theory of cognitive development which is a comprehensive theory concerning the development and nature of human intelligence. Minli's childhood played in active role in her development. Such that her issues with her ma and her desire to improve her situation propelled her to go on a dangerous adventure. There are four stages in Piaget's theory. They are Sensory-Motor Stage
Stage of Concrete Operations
Stage of Formal Operations
During each stage, a child will gain more complex cognitive abilities and motor skills. Minli appears to be at the fourth stage or the stage of formal operations. This is because Minli can deal with the present and can think about the future, the hypothetical, and the abstract. She assumes talking the old man will increase her family's fortune. She formed abstract thinking and formed a positive hypothetical of her situation in the world and her influential actions.
Essentially, to summarize the book, Minli hails from a poor mountain village in China called the Village of the Fruitless Mountain. The huge mountain provides the villagers with no food and animals and surrounds the village. Minli lives in squalor and mud having to eat only rice to survive. As the novel progresses Minli decides to go on an adventure to look for the Old Man of the Moon villagers believe can change fortunes. Since Ma, her mother's negative attitude prompted Minli to go she hopes gaining a better fortune will improve not only her life but also her family's.
While adventuring Minli comes across Dragon and he becomes her partner. They meet a significant character in the story named Buffalo Boy who changes how she sees herself and others (Turns more selfless than selfish) because he tells her how grateful she should be that she even has family that loves her. Minli then meets the King at the City of Bright Moonlight and he gives her what is called the "borrowed line" an essential part of her journey. The climax of the story occurs when Minli and her friend Dragon are in the cave where the evil Green Tiger arrives.
He attempts to kill Minli but only wounds Dragon who stayed to protect her. The A-Fu and Da-Fu twins along with their grandfather help Minli and Dragon. They are then taken to the Village of the Moon Rain. They treat Dragon, he becomes healthy again, and eventually they meet the Old Man of the Moon. Here is where Minli changes character.
Although Minli initiated the adventure to ask the Old Man to fix her family's fortune, she instead asks him for the answer as to why Dragon cannot fly. Prompted by the Old Man, Minli takes Dragon's stone ball off his head and they fly back to her village. Upon further examination, the stone ball is a dragon's pearl, worth an exorbitant amount and Minli, her family, and the village gain wealth and prosperity. Dragon also discovers he is part of Jade Dragon's children. The Jade River becomes fresh and clear and the fruitless mountain village turns into a bright and happy place where flowers and fruit grow.
There are not clear gender stereotypes in the book. Minli does not seem too passive. Although she does need protection from Dragon. Overall, Minli is a character that is strong, brave, and loyal.
Children will learn to believe in their abilities and have faith in themselves. They will also learn to be brave and face challenges. Most importantly, they will learn to be grateful for what they have and to be not so egocentric. Caring for others is just as important as caring for one's self. Minli could have wished for her family's fortune to change, instead, she asked her friend to fly again.
I would certainly recommend the book. This is because it shows a snipped of Chinese culture. It also gives readers a female protagonist that is clever and overall a kindhearted person. It is also easy…
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