Summary: In the valley of Fruitless mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man of the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life's questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man of the Moon to ask him how she can change her family's fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest for the ultimate answer.
Lots of times when I was reading, I remembered watching Sagwa with my oldest daughter years ago. It was about a family of cats who lived in China and they lived in the Emperor's palace. Ring any bells? Anyway, a lot of the stories and even the names of things reminded me of Sagwa!
The story starts out with a little girl named Minli. She lives in a poor family. They work hard in the rice fields every day and have little to show for it. Her father tries to make the best of it and tells Minli stories at night after their meager dinner. Her mother is sad and discouraged at their circumstances, and Minli picks up on her discontent. (It makes me wonder how many times my own children pick up on my feelings, even when I think I'm hiding them so well! Better be more careful!)
After hearing one of her father's stories, Minli decides she will try to find the Old Man of the Moon and see if he will change their fortune. She meets lots of friends along the way, but the friends I loved the most were the stories scattered throughout the narrative. Minli will hear about a story, and then the story is written into the book. It's quite clever the way it was done. I love old Chinese folktales!