The power of stories is front and center in this beautiful, imaginative companion to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Starred review. A 2016 Christmas Gift List Title!
*When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin. Little, Brown, 2016. 340 pages.
Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 8-12
Recommended For: Ages 8 and up, family read aloud or independent read
Pinmei lives with her grandmother, the Storyteller, in a small hut in a small mountain village. Her grandmother is renowned for her stories, and Pinmei lives a pleasant life. Until the Emperor comes storming into their village, shattering homes and stealing her grandmother away! Pinmei emerges from her hiding spot determined to rescue her grandmother. Together with her friend Yishan, Pinmei begins her hunt for her grandmother and the Luminous Stone That Lights the Night–the one object valuable enough to trade for her grandmother. As they journey through countless dangers, Pinmei finds her own storytelling voice, scenes from folklore come to life, and Yishan turns out to have a magical secret of his own.
Lush, colorful illustrations by the author enhance the lyrical storytelling in this magical book. Chinese folklore comes to life for Western readers as Pinmei and Yishan tell the stories and experience them. Vivid imagery, harrowing escapes, the courage of friends and family members, come together in a tapestry worthy of the magical needle in Pinmei’s stories. When readers finish this novel, they will want to start back over and read it with the new understanding the ending provides. As Christians, we believe that words have meaning. Pinmei’s stories echo that same rich understanding–words have meaning and can be used powerfully for good or ill in the hearers’ lives. The elements of sacrifice, courage, loyalty, love, and right v. wrong also come to the surface in this richly told fantasy. But perhaps most significantly, the willingness on the part of young Pinmei and Yishan to follow their callings is a great reminder of our own journeys as believers. This is not a “Christian” book, but the themes resonate as Pinmei and Yishan struggle against obstacles, draw courage from one another, and press on to live out their respective identities. Both boys and girls will enjoy this story: a girl main character plus a boy main character plus romance AND action! Note: this is a companion novel to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (one of our summer reading selections several years ago!) and Starry River of the Sky; it is not necessary to have read the first two to enjoy When the Sea Turned to Silver, but those who have read the first two will enjoy this one all the more.
Cautions: Violence (war-time violence and fantastical scenes)
Overall Rating: 4.75
*indicates a starred review