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Where the Mountain Meets the Moon Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The whole book is a beautiful package – a strong, likeable heroine, a adventurous quest, light fantasy, lovely illustrations, and a story that’s entirely appropriate for younger readers who want those fantasy elements but aren’t ready for anything too dark or scary. It’s a great novel for kids who are drawn to folktales, and it would also make a great gateway book to folktales, especially with Lin’s list of further reading at the back of the book. I really couldn’t find fault with anything here, and I was quite pleased to see it win the Mock Newbery AND take home a Newbery Honor. I also suspect it would make a great read-aloud for a family or classroom.

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Heart of a Shepherd Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A slim but moving story about a rural family of ranchers and soldiers who are spiritually inclined – doesn’t exactly sound exciting, does it? But for readers who like stories with great characters and vivid settings, this is a treat. It’s also not a dull, actionless story. Sure, a big focus of the book is on Brother’s thoughts and feelings, as he stays home on the Eastern Oregon ranch with his grandparents, while his dad is in Iraq and his brothers are off at school. But the details about rural life and military families will make this appealing to kids interested in either of those topics, and it’s refreshing to see a story where the characters are actively religious in a non-didactic way.

You respect the way spirituality pervades their lives without the story becoming preachy. While I think that people who are Christian might find this aspect of the story more appealing than other groups, I would still recommend it to a young reader who isn’t Christian, or isn’t necessarily religious. A variety of faiths are represented, and if anything the message of the story is to support your community and your family through thick and thin. The ending is hopeful but not too neatly resolved.

One small quibble with the book – for a character-driven story, I just didn’t buy the mom’s story. Every time she was mentioned, and every time I thought of her role in Brother’s life, I was drawn out of the story because it just didn’t ring true, and felt like an awfully convenient way to get her out of the picture without killing her off.

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Whew, I finished up the list just in time – I polished off Where the Mountain Meets the Moon yesterday afternoon, and Almost Astronauts before I went to bed (late).  Good thing, too, because here are the results!

Books considered:

  1. Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone. Candlewick, 2009.
  2. Heart of a Shepherd by Roseanne Parry.  Random House Books for Young Readers, 2009.
  3. How Oliver Olson Changed the World by Claudia Mills.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009.
  4. The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo. Candlewick, 2009.
  5. Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman.  Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2009.
  6. A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck.  Dial, 2009.
  7. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.  Wendy Lamb Books, 2009.
  8. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009.

Our winner is Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, with When You Reach Me as the closest competition.  Heart of a Shepherd also got a good chunk of votes, but only about half as many points as WYRM, and I can’t remember if it was declared an honor book as well.  The next title down only had a third as many points as Heart, so those three were clearly at the top.  They were also my three choices, in exactly the same order.  If I’d had a 4th vote, it would’ve gone to Red Sings From the Treetops, which impressed me more on each rereading, but didn’t stay with me in the same way as the novels.

As an added bonus, I placed second in the quiz to identity Newbery winners based on their first lines, and won myself a copy of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon – sweet!  Now it had really better win.  Just kidding.  Still debating whether or not to arise before the crack of dawn to try and get on the webcast…or sleep and see the winners at a decent hour here on the west coast.

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone. Candlewick, 2009.

Heart of a Shepherd by Roseanne Parry.  Random House Books for Young Readers, 2009.

How Oliver Olson Changed the World by Claudia Mills.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009.

The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo. Candlewick, 2009.

Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman.  Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2009.

A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck.  Dial, 2009.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.  Wendy Lamb Books, 2009.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009.

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