Thursday, September 20, 2012

Starry River of the Sky - a review

Lin, Grace. 2012. Starry River of the Sky. New York: Little Brown.

A companion book to Grace Lin's 2009, Newbery Honor book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Starry River of the Sky is much the same and yet very different. Like the earlier book, Starry River of the Sky contains Grace Lin’s beautiful artwork (see note), features folktale vignettes, and revolves around a journey.  But while Minli’s journey in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, is an actual journey full of obstacles to overcome, main character, Rendi’s journey, in Starry River of the Sky, is an introspective journey of understanding and self-discovery.

The story opens with a miserable and distressed Rendi traveling as a stowaway in a merchant’s cart,

Rendi was not sure how long the moon had been missing.  He knew only that for weeks, the wind seemed to be whimpering as if the sky were suffering.  At first, he had thought the moans were his own because his whole body ached from hiding in the merchant’s cart.  However, it was when the cart had stopped for the evening, when the bumping and knocking had ended, that the groans began.
Rendi’s story is tied inexorably to that of the moon, though it will take some time for him to determine why the moon is missing and why he, and he alone hears the moaning of the sky each night.  He is discovered by the merchant and left in a dying town, the Village of Clear Sky.  With no other prospects, he becomes the chore boy for Master Chao, owner of the local inn.  Master Chao’s daughter,  Peiyi, takes an immediate dislike to the sullen young boy. It is not until the mysterious Madame Chang, the inn’s only guest, arrives, that fortunes begin to change.  Madame Chang is a beautiful and captivating storyteller, recounting age-old folktales that have particular significance to Rendi; the neighbor, Widow Yan, and her daughter; and Mr. Shan, an elderly, doddering dinner guest who frequents the Inn.  As Madame Chang shares her stories and encourages Rendi to do the same, his protective layer of insolence is removed like layers of skin from an onion.  Starry Village of the Sky is many-layered as well - each character has a hidden story that is coaxed out by the storytelling of Madame Chang.

This is a captivating story that, while holding deep meaning, may be enjoyed in many layers. A magical fantasy, a Chinese folktale, a tale of a boy lost and found, a love story, a mystery, a journey of self-discovery -- all may be found in the tiny and remote Village of Clear Sky.

Starry River of the Sky is another star-filled book for Grace Lin, already garnering three starred reviews and a Junior Library Guild selection.


Note: My Advance Reader Copy did not contain finished artwork, but I am confident that it will be both beautiful and magical.

Want a peek at the artwork?  Watch Grace Lin flip through her book!

“Behind Starry River of the Sky

More reviews @

Due on shelves in October, 2012.

1 comment:

  1. My eight year old is now reading Mountain. I'm jealous that you have a copy of this book. We'll be looking for it.

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