Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin (2009) E

Date read: 12.16.10
Book from: Personal collection
Reviewer: Emera

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is as much a joy to hold (literally – it’s the nicest size for a hardback) and look at as it is to read:

The insides are just as beautiful, with colored text and chapter headers, and more of Grace Lin’s ornate, exuberant, full-color illustrations scattered throughout, complementing her detailed, lively prose.

The story follows the adventures of Minli, a young girl who leaves her home in the shadow of the Fruitless Mountain to seek out the Old Man in the Moon, and learn from him how to change her family’s unhappy fortune. On the way, she helps and is helped by a varied cast of characters with cleverly interwoven stories to tell, including a talking goldfish with ambitions, a flightless dragon, and an orphan boy who lives with a water buffalo.

Minli is sort of generically plucky and lovable, and occasionally the story’s sweetness borders on sappiness, but it’s all so clearly coming from a place of genuine caring that I can’t really complain. Lin’s attention to the grief of Minli’s parents after her disappearance is particularly striking and moving. Among children’s books, I can’t remember reading another Hero’s Journey that also gave page time to those left behind. Watching her parents (her mother in particular) come to their own realizations about their relationships with Minli, and then witnessing the family’s eventual reunion – again, just genuinely sweet, loving, and ultimately joyful.

All in all, I felt like I was being given a hug and a bowl of hot soup in book form. (It doesn’t hurt that Lin clearly enjoys describing details of food as much as she does fantastical scenes of red-silk bridges and monkey-infested peach groves.)

As always with really good YA, I wish I knew younger persons I could gift this to. Older readers looking for more books set in mythical China would do very well indeed to look up Barry Hughart’s rumbustious, madcap adventure-fantasy-mystery-everything-awesome series, The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox, beginning with Bridge of Birds.

Go to:
Grace Lin: bio and works reviewed

Lorem Ipsum, Lorem Ipsum

Lorem Ipsum Books
1299 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA (Inman Square)

Really nice space, complete with small couch-y area and prints etc. by local artists. Decent selection of sff, great selection of YA. I forgot to check out the poetry section, which gives me a good excuse to go back ASAP. In general, really carefully organized and curated. Since they have a lot of floor space, they don’t have the slightly frantic, overstuffed feeling that most used bookstores end up having.

Loved all the extra-pretty old books selected for display:

Continue reading Lorem Ipsum, Lorem Ipsum

Guess that children’s book!

One of my roommates and I work part-time for a children’s library, and one of the activities this past fall was teaching kids how to interpret stained-glass windows – so in between midterm cramming, we ended up painting eight huge faux-stained-glass windows of popular children’s (and a couple YA) books for the kids to guess. Anyone else like to have a go?





Continue reading Guess that children’s book!

An unexpected holiday present for publishing

“Dreamy Sales of Jung Book Stir Analysis” (har)

Absolutely fascinating NYTimes article about how a hefty, pricy (list price $195), luxuriously crafted (“the book is partly hand-bound, uses two different kinds of custom-made paper and is printed in Italy”) reproduction of Carl Jung’s illustrated, hand-written The Red Book has been selling astoundingly well. It’s sold out in many locations and has garnered three more printing runs, despite understandably low initial expectations for its success. The article is a rather heartening read, even if it’s not indicative of the book industry’s success in general. Also, the book looks gorgeous, needless to say.

Alas, though, for Carl Jung, because when I think of him now, the first thing that comes to mind is his appearance as Tiny Carl Jung in the hilarious, bizarre nerdfest of a webcomic that is Dresden Codak.

I hope everyone is having a happy holiday!

– E

Bookstores of New York: Books of Wonder

Books of Wonder
18 West 18th Street, New York, New York
Date visited: 07.31.09

This past summer, Kakaner and I, plus another friend, went on a mini-tour of several independent bookstores in New York City. Chief among our destinations was Books of Wonder, which specializes in children’s and fantasy books, both new and collectible. I’d first seen some of their items at the New York Antiquities Book Fair in the spring, which is a subject for another entry, but I’d been enchanted even then by their gorgeous editions and collection of original cover art. Their actual location proved to be just as much fun.

My house will probably look like this one day.

Continue reading Bookstores of New York: Books of Wonder

Paper as art

Matias Costa for The New York Times

“In Spain, Paper Too Beautiful to Use” (New York Times)

Lovely little article about the tradition of fine, handmade papers in Spain, particularly the work of the artisan/artist Montse Buxó i Marsá – since of course paperies, bookbinding, and printing all go hand-in-hand.

The article is fascinating to me for a number of reasons.  I love to see anyone who still takes the time and effort to make commonly utilitarian items beautiful (and it’s a shame that the article doesn’t have more photographs). The mass production of items like paper and books means, of course, that access to them has become universalized, but it also means that for the most part, we stop seeing them as individual, potentially artistic items. This is what I was trying to get at, in a highly vague way, in my review of Anna : the distinction between owning “a book” – a singular object – and “a copy of a book.”

In contemporary times, I think we tend to think of a text as an abstract thing that we access through the means of printed words on a page, or through a Word document, or an e-book, or a Kindle. That is, the potential conduits to the actual text are infinite and functionally interchangeable. Compare this with the Middle Ages, when the biggest commissioned “print run” of a major text at one time would be about four, and single, richly decorated volumes would be given as prestigious gifts and left behind as specific bequests in wills; privately owned books were often kept in chests along with the family silver and other valuables.

I love the Printing Revolution and just about everything about it, and I have plenty of tattered, hideous mass market paperbacks that I adore in spite of their mass-market-paperbackiness. In many ways, it’s awesome that books are so widely available that many people don’t think twice about throwing an old copy out, as cringeworthy as some of us may find it. Bottom line, though, I think that beautiful, carefully made books represent a rare unity of tactile, visual, and mental (and occasionally spiritual) pleasure*, and one that’s too rarely considered and appreciated.

*This could be interpreted to explain our “book porn” category, but really, we didn’t think about that one that hard… we’re just easily amused.