Where The Mountain Meets The Moon

a31a4e0dc963a0a86c1ef697c324cf92

 

 

Where The Mountain Meets The Moon is a enchanting fantasy fiction in the form of a Chinese folktale written and illustrated by Grace Lin. What I like best about this book is how the author has fitted so many other old small Chinese folktales into the main story of this book. In every other chapter, you can find another folktale. This is a story about how a girl sets off to bring her family fortune, rescues a dragon who becomes her traveling partner, and endures a series of adventures to ultimately return home with a dragon pearl. Grace Lin wrote this book to entertain us. I would say that the theme of this book is that anything can happen if you just believe, like Minli (the girl) did.

 

For this charming book, I (with my little brother) created a board game.FullSizeRender-2 It had a long row of spaces. All the spaces used good or bad fortune from the book, ultimately making the player roll again and move ahead, roll again and move back, or skip a turn. There were two tokens, Dragon and Minli. The object was to get from Fruitless Mountain, the tall mountain you see here, to Never-Ending Mountain, the abode of the Old Man of the Moon. I made Fruitless mountain and the Old Man of the Moon (who is sitting on top of the clouds) standing up, but then I also have further illustrations behind the track, namely: Minli setting off from from Fruitless Mountain, Monkeys in the Peach Grove, the Lion Gate and the King’s Garden in the City of Bright Moonlight, the Green Tiger in the Mountain Climb, and, finally, the twins Da-A-Fu in the Village of Moon Rain.

When we first played the game, we  were a little confused. This game can be 10 minutes long or 1 hour long (if you keep landing on the same spaces again and again)!

 

 

 

FullSizeRender-1

My Dragon character

IMG_3476

My Minli Character

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Fiction

The Kitchen Madonna

515vezBXc+L._SX335_BO1,204,203,200_
The Kitchen Madonna
is a touching work of realistic fiction by Rumer Godden. Written in 1967 and set in London, the protagonists of this book are nine-year-old Gregory and seven-year-old Janet Thomas, and the supporting characters are Marta, Madame Ginnete, and Mrs. Bartholomew. The theme of this book is how a quiet young boy strives to make an icon for a person he loves and, in doing so, opens up to those around him.

Marta, the Thomas’ new hired Ukrainian helper, is unhappy in this house and misses her own house. She tells Gregory that it is because his house has no ‘good place.’ By a good place, Marta means a shelf in the kitchen where there is a painting of the Mother and Child, except it is decorated with gold and rubies and amber. Gregory wants Marta to stay with his family, so he sets off on a quest to get Marta a Kitchen Madonna.

The following Saturday, Gregory goes with Janet to the British Museum to look at some icons. Dissapointingly, the icons are all faded paintings with little or no decorations. Luckily, a gentleman looking at the icons near them tells them about a jeweler called Rostov’s. They decide to go there. But today, it is already too late. They are in big trouble, not only because they are so late, but also because they have ventured so far away to the British Museum.

After a week, though, Gregory disobeys his parents again and does go to Rostov’s after all, with Janet tagging along behind him as usual. At Rostov’s, Gregory asks to look at the icons and finds one that he thinks Marta will like. But then Janet innocently says, “We have 30 shillings left over from bus fees. Is that enough to buy this icon?” Everyone laughs at Gregory and Janet. The icon costs 438 guineas! Gregory gets mad and embarrased, and they leave the shop.

It is raining outside, so Gregory and Janet stay for a while in a nearby church. There, they see a Madonna just the way Marta had described. Gregory realizes that he can make a Madonna for Marta.

One day, Janet goes up to Gregory’s room, the Loft, to speak to him. She has a plan. There was a painting of the Mother and Child in the newspaper a couple days ago. They can use that for their Madonna! Gregory cuts out the Madonna picture from the paper. He copies the Madonna outline onto a piece of stiff white paper. He then cuts out each shape—the Madonna, her robe, the Baby, the background, and everything else. These are his templates.

They now have to find pieces of cloth for the garments. They look in the ragbasket, but there is nothing there that will do. Then, two days later, Gregory visits his mother’s hatter, Madame Ginette. Now, this is a big deal for Gregory, who never speaks to anyone if he can help it. He tells her about the Madonna and asks her for some scraps for the Madonna. He gets them from Madame Ginette and puts them on the Madonna.

Now, Gregory needs a background. Since he is already using the frame of his ship picture, he decides to use the background as well because it has a sky color. He also gets some white lace and paints it gold, for the halos of the crowns. Now, he has to decide what to use for the border. The answer to this doesn’t come until, one day, Janet brings him a bag of toffees. The wrappers of some of them are shiny and metallic. Gregory has an idea. He goes to the candy store and talks to the candy lady, Mrs. Bartholomew. (Again, this is a very big thing for him, and it shows how he is getting more open with people.) He tells her about his project and asks her for some toffees, the ones with the shiny wrappers. He then glues the wrappers to make a border. His Madonna is ready!

He then tells his parents the entire story of the Madonna, beginning to end. His mother takes Marta away from the kitchen for a minute, while Gregory and Janet and Father hang the Madonna three inches above the small table in the corner of the kitchen and put some red velvet and white lace on the table to decorate it. On top, they put a vase and a red lamp. The Madonna is ready for Marta.

Mother comes down with Marta to show her Gregory’s Kitchen Madonna. Marta was so pleased with Gregory. And it’s no wonder, for the Kitchen Madonna was so amazingly made!

FullSizeRender

The lesson I learnt from this book is how much Gregory loved Marta to make this for her. If he had had enough money and bought the icon at Rostov’s, it would have been completely different. But he used his own effort and made it for Marta, and that requires a lot of love and dedication.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Fiction

The Winged Watchman

512zFFCE8ELThe Winged Watchman is a beautiful historical fiction by Hilda van Stockum. It is set during the Nazi occupation of Holland in World War II, in a small Dutch village called Saterwoude. The protagonists are two brothers, Dirk Jan (14) and Joris (10). The supporting characters are their parents, Uncle Cor (their uncle and a leader of the Resistance*), and Dirk Jan and Joris’ friends. The antagonists are the Nazis and the landwatchers. (Landwatchers were people who had turned traitor to their country and worked for the Nazis.) The theme of this story is how people struggled to survive World War II.

The book starts one day when Joris goes out to deliver a message for his mother. On the way, he finds two boys bullying a small puppy. Joris gets mad and drives them away. He then runs home with the small, frightened puppy in his hands. At home, Dirk Jan tells him that he knows the owners of the puppy—Hans and Habel de Wit. Joris convinces his father to try to buy the puppy from Hans and Habel’s parents. Mr. Verhagen manages to do just that, and the puppy, Freya, becomes Joris’ best friend and closest companion other than Dirk Jan.

A couple of days later, Joris and Dirk Jan go to buy some milk. On their way back, they see a young girl, about the same age as Dirk Jan, lying unconsious on the ground. Joris quickly goes and calls the local doctor, Dr. de Vries. It just so happens that the young girl, Reina, is the doctor’s niece. She has a satchel full of newspapers forbidden by the Nazis. She, in fact, works for the Underground (the Resistance).

One day Joris and his friend Hendrick Schenderhans see four aviators parachuting down from an English bomber that had been shot. Three of them seek cover in Mr. Poot’s barn. Mr. Poot is a close friend of the Verhagens’, and his son Ernst is one of Dirk Jan’s classmates. When the Germans find out that three aviators are hiding with the Poots, they arrest the aviators and send Mr. Poot and Ernst to the Vught concentration camp. But Joris is the only one who remembers seeing four aviators, not just three, or so he thinks.

That evening, Joris goes to gather mushrooms for his mother. He strays off to the old, dead mill that belongs to the Schenderhans. Wanting to explore it, he climbs up to the top. There is a large pressbed there. Joris looks under it to see if anything is in there. Joris expects a pile of dust, or perhaps some old items of no use now. But what he certainly doesn’t expect is a boy staring at him from underneath the bed!

The boy tells him, using sign language, that his name is Charles. He is the fourth English aviator, the one who escaped from the Germans. Joris tells Charles, still using sign language, that he will go and bring Charles some food. Joris then leaves the mill. That night, he comes back with the food. But surprisingly, Dirk Jan follows him, and learns of Joris’ secret! Dirk Jan and Joris later bring new clothes for Charles. Uncle Cor happens to be visiting the Verhagens, so he and Charles take up disguises and convince Leendert Schenderhans, a landwatcher, to give them a ride to Leyden. Charles manages to escape with their help.

After this, the Verhagens start housing even more escaped people, this time permanently. When Uncle Cor returns, he tells the Verhagens to house two little girls, Koba and Betsy. Koba and Betsy become almost like part of the family. Then, after Christmas, Dirk Jan is sent on a mission by Uncle Cor. Dirk Jan must first go to Gerardus van Manen, one of Uncle Cor’s friends. He must deliver a message there. Mr. Manen will either say “yes” or “no.” Dirk Jan does just that. Mr. Manen says, “yes.” Uncle Cor had told Dirk Jan that if Mr. Manen said yes, he was to go to the Falcon, another windmill. There, he would meet Mr. van Loo. He must give the password, “Old Rhine and green cabbage” and tell him that his uncle of the garage had a happy event of the family and wants to have the mill put into joy. That is what Dirk Jan does. He gets a ride home the next day in Mr. Garret’s truck. On the way, he sees a German tank exploding. Prisoners run out. One gets into Mr. Garret’s truck. He and Dirk Jan start a conversation during the rest of the truck ride. They decide that the young man, who calls himself Hildebrand, can stay with the Verhagens. And so Hildebrand comes to stay in the Verhagens’ house.

Because Dirk Jan succesfully completes his mission, the weapon-dropping can take place. Hope of peace is spreading over the country. Everyone is sure that Holland is going to be liberated soon. And on May 5, 1945, peace and joy returns to Holland! Hildebrand, Koba, and Betsy safely return to their homes. Mr. Poot and Ernst return to Saterwoude. Everything is wondeful in Holland, once again.

The lesson I learnt from this book is to never give up. No matter what hardships they faced, all the characters of this book did all they could for their country, and for the Allies to win.

 

* The Resistance was a group of brave people who did all they could to fight the Nazis.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Fiction

A Letter to Mrs. Roosevelt

10403659._UY200_A Letter to Mrs. Roosevelt, a heartwarming work of historical fiction by C. Coco De Young, is set during the Great Depression in 1933, on Maple Avenue in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The main characters are two siblings, Charlie and Margo Bandini. This book is based on a true story. The author’s father played the same role that Charlie plays in this book, the author’s aunt (her father’s sister) played the same role that Margo plays in this book, and Grandfather Coco (the author’s grandfather) played the same role as Papa in this book. The supporting characters are Papa, Mama, Rosa, Michael, Ms. Dobson (Margo’s teacher), and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The antagonist is the Great Depression itself.

In 1929, when the book starts, Rosa and Michael are Charlie and Margo’s next-door neighboors, and also siblings. Rosa is Margo’s friend and Michael is Charlie’s friend. One day, Charlie injures his knee badly while trying to break up a fight in his class. When the doctor visits him, he knows that the best thing to do is to amputate the leg. But Charlie and Margo’s parents do not allow that to happen. They look desperately for a doctor who could cure Charlie without amputating his leg. And they find one in Boston, Massachusetts. But the cost is $5,000. They manage to pay it, though. And Charlie gets well again.

The book then skips four years to 1933, when Charlie turns nine and Margo turns eleven. One Saturday evening, when Papa comes back from work with Charlie, Papa and Mama are both unusually quiet at dinner. So is Charlie. Margo cannot understand why everyone is acting like this. Then later, Charlie tells her the bad news: When Charlie was in his Father’s shoe shop, he happened to see an important paper of his father’s. It was a paper for a loan. Papa had taken a $5,000 loan to pay Charlie’s doctor’s fees. He had listed his house, his shoe shop, and everything else he owned as the collateral. Now, he can’t pay back the loan, so they will lose their house! It will be on Sheriff Sale.

Margo wants to help. And then she has an idea. Her assignment in school over the weekend is to write a letter to any person who she thinks is inspiring to her. She wants to find a way to save her house. So, she decides to write to someone who will, and can, help: First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Margo writes her letter. She then submits it to her teacher, Ms. Dobson, who tells Margo that she will mail the letter for her. A few days later, when Margo comes back from school, she sees that the sheriff and the banker have arrived at her house. They have come to force Margo and her famiy out of their house. Margo has been anxiously waiting for a reply all these days, but there has been none. Now it is too late. Or is it?

The lesson I learnt from this book is to be brave and to never give up. What is inspiring in this book is that a young child saves the day, not an adult.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Fiction

Half Magic: What if All of Your Dreams Came Half True?

71E6Gd1cLfLHalf Magic is a fictional novel by Edward Eager set in present-day Toledo, Ohio. The main characters are Jane, Mark, Katharine, and Martha. The supporting characters are Mr. Smith and Mother. This fantasy was written by Edward Eager to entertain his readers. The theme is that if you believe in magic, you might get some, and it can change your personality for the better.

One day, Jane finds what looks like a nickel on the sidewalk. She picks it up and keeps it in her pocket. Later, she gets angry and wishes for there to be a fire. And amazingly, there is! But it is a child-size fire, like half of a fire. At home, Jane puts the coin, which she realizes is not a nickel after all, on the shelf. Martha, her sister, touches it and wishes that the cat could speak. And the cat starts half speaking! Jane, Mark, Katharine and Martha realize that the magical coin grants wishes by halves.

The children have some amazing adventures with the magic charm. They take turns choosing adventures. In each adventure, there is something that doesn’t go the way they plan. When they accidentally travel to the Sahara Desert, they meet Achmed the Arab, who wants to capture them. But they find a way back to their home using the charm.

When they purposefully travel to Camelot, they rescue Sir Lancelot from Morgan Le Fay, but when they go to watch a tournament, Katharine uses the charm to look like a knight and joins the tournament. She knocks Lancelot unconscious. But then, Merlin the Magician tells her that she must not change history, if she travels through time and space. They make the tournament restart and make everybody forget the incident as if the children had never even come there.

When they go to the movies, not wanting to use the charm, Martha accidentally wishes that she were never there, and immediately her outline is there, but her whole body looks transparent. She runs to a bookshop. She meets Mr. Smith, one of the only adults who believes in magic. The other three soon find her. They like Mr. Smith a lot, and think that he would make an ideal stepfather.

But then Jane, who is the only one who actually remembers their father, gets angry and, in her anger, purposefully wishes that she belonged to another family. The other three, with Mr. Smith’s help, bring her back and unwish her. After this, she starts loving Mr. Smith.

Mr. Smith and Mother get married, and Mr. Smith becomes their stepfather. Everybody is happy. The children throw the charm back on the sidewalk because they don’t need the magic any more thinking that this is what the charm must want them to do, and another little girl finds it.

The lesson to learn is that when you are happy, you need no magic, half or full.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Fiction

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson

774600In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson is a historical fiction by Bette Bao Lord. In this book, a Chinese girl named Shirley Temple Wong moves to America in 1947. Although she tries to fit in, she just can’t until she makes friends with the class bully. Then, she learns to play baseball and becomes the #1 fan of the famous Brooklyn Dodgers player Jackie Robinson. We have here two very different characters, the world–famous real–life Jackie Robinson, and the ordinary eight–year–old fictional Shirley Temple Wong. Let’s compare and contrast Shirley and Jackie Robinson as detailed in the book and with a little research.

First we’ll discuss the differences. Jackie Robinson’s father was a poor black sharecropper, while Shirley’s father was a well-paid engineer. Secondly, Jackie Robinson was born and brought up in America, while Shirley was born and brought up in China. Therefore, Jackie Robinson was familiar to American culture, while Shirley had to get accustommed to American ways when she moved to America because she was familiar with Chinese culture.

Now we’ll discuss the similarities. Firstly, Shirley and Jackie Robinson both loved baseball. Secondly, Shirley was the only Chinese in her school (Public School #8) in Brooklyn, New York, where she studied, and Jackie Robinson was the only black man playing with the Dodgers. They were both the odd one out from their peers. So, they both faced some opposition at first, Jackie Robinson by the white players and Shirley by her white classmates. Thirdly, Jackie Robinson was the ambassador of the black people in baseball, while Shirley was the ambassador of the Chinese in P. S. 8. Jackie Robinson had to play well to end segregation in sports, and if he were provoked, insulted or beaten up, he had to fight back not verbally or physically, but by the ball game, by playing so well that the tide turned in the game. Shirley had to behave well because she would be making an impact on the onlooking Americans about how the Chinese behaved. Lastly, both Jackie Robinson and Shirley’s parents worked hard because they wanted their children to go to college and achieve a significant goal (and Jackie Robinson did).

The above comparison shows us that Jackie Robinson and Shirley were alike in more ways than they were different. While researching I was very surprised how much a young, ordinary Chinese girl could be like a famous American baseball hero. I stated in my introduction and second paragraph how different they seemed, but in my third paragraph I saw that they were alike in many more ways.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Fiction

Miracles on Maple Hill

Miracles_on_Maple_HillMiracles on Maple Hill is a realistic fiction by Virginia Sorenson. Set in the small fictional town of Maple Hill near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1956, the main characters are Marly, a 10-year-old girl, and Joe, Marly’s 12-year-old brother, and the side characters are Mother, Daddy, Mr. Chris (Marly and her family’s friend), Mrs. Chris, and Harry the Hermit (an odd man whom Joe and Marly befriend and who lives entirely on nature and smells of goats). The theme is that Nature can heal all problems—physical, spiritual, or emotional.

When Daddy comes back from the Korean War, he is very hard and tired and not at all like his own cheery self, so Mother suggests staying in the country for some while, for she thinks that it may do him good. They go to the old, rickety, little house where Mother’s grandmother used to live on Maple Hill. Marly and her family meet Mr. Chris, who used to know Mother when she was a little girl. He makes maple syrup for a living.

Everyone loves the house, and Father gets much more energetic and cheery. Everybody looks up to Mr. Chris. Joe goes exploring with him, he tells Marly the names of the flowers and trees, and he teaches Mother and Daddy many things about living in the country. If I were in Joe’s shoes, I would also be thrilled to go and explore an unknown part of the country. Mr. Chris is the one who makes life full of miracles for Marly and her family at Maple Hill. In fact, Marly’s family decides to move to Maple Hill!

But then, the news arrives that their best friend has fallen sick, and it’s up to them to make the maple syrup themselves. What they care about most, though, is Mr. Chris. Will he ever get well again?

I really enjoyed many events in this book. When Joe saves Harry the Hermit from freezing to death, I was impressed that he had helped Harry on his own. Additionally, Mr. Chris was a very kind and generous man in my opinion. He always did things for others, not for himself. I think everyone should be like him.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Fiction