March 29 – Post #8

The amazing journey of Minli draws to a close in chapters 47 and 48 of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. After reading chapters 47 and 48, consider the following two questions and share your ideas in the Comments section.

Theme: Good Fortune
When Minli returns to her home, she and her parents discover several different types of good fortune. What good fortune do they discover? Which of these is the most valuable of all to Minli and her parents?


Grace Lin’s illustrations are incredibly detailed and thought-provoking — as well as beautiful. Compare and contrast the painting of the Village of Fruitless Mountain at the beginning of the book and the one at the end. (pages 5 and 279). How do these careful illustrations add to your understanding of the story?


March 22 – Post #7

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon,  chapters 40 – 46: Questions to ponder

Stop and Think: Difficult Decisions
Minli is faced with a difficult decision when she reaches the Old Man of the Moon. She can only ask one question. What question does she ask? Why does she ask that particular question? What details in the story help you understand her decision?


Theme: Red Threads and Connections
(Ideas from Kirsten Cappy’s Reader’s Guide)
Re-read pages 246-250 of WTMMTM and think about the complex web of threads in the room of the Old Man of the Moon. Are you possibly connected to everyone in the world – Even to those whom you have not met?

There are many connections between characters in the story, the characters and events in the legends, and the things that happen along Minli’s journey. Can you create a special red thread map of the story? (If so, post a picture here in the Comments section!)

March 15 – Post #6

Read chapters 35 – 39 and consider the questions below.

Theme: Stories
(from the Little-Brown Educator’s Guide, prepared by Jennifer McMahon)
On the journey, Minli and Dragon hear the story of Da-Fu’s ancestors. How does this story help you understand an earlier story in this book? Why do you think the Old Man of the Moon moved their home? When Minli and her traveling companions arrive at Never Ending Mountain, it seems too far away for them to reach. What idea does Minli put into action in order to get a message to the Old Man of the Moon?

Symbolism: Notice the following symbols in these chapters. Select one and describe why the author might have chosen to use this particular symbol to tell this part of the story.

  • Red symbolizes happiness and good luck.
  • A tiger is the king of beasts and symbolizes powerful energy
  • A vase is a symbol of peace

Theme: Red Thread and Connections
In chapter 37, A-Fu and Da-Fu’s grandparents give Minli a coat. Notice its colors and think about symbols. Consider possible connections to the “Red Thread” that connects us. What is special about this coat?

Stop and Think: Compare and Contrast
(from the Little-Brown Educator’s Guide, prepared by Jennifer McMahon)
When Minli suggests Da-Fu could ask the Old Man of the Moon how to change their fortune, they laugh. Why do they laugh? Does this remind you of the reaction of any other character in this book? Which character? How is this character similar and different from Da-Fu?



March 8 – Post #5

Stop and Think: Visualizing
Grace Lin chose her words carefully to write Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, allowing readers to visualize scenes vividly and in detail. You can select almost any page and try to “make a movie in your head.”  Some particularly good scenes to practice visualizing might be the scene in which Ma and Ba are in their home as the wind blows in chapter 28, the fight between the dragon and the tiger in chapter 29, or when Minli firsts encounters A Fu and Da Fu with the tiger in chapter 30. By visualizing scenes as you read, you can improve your comprehension of the story. Which scene did you practice visualizing and what did you notice about Grace’s craft of writing that helped you visualize? Did you understand something new about the story?

(Note: See the information in the back of the book about the story behind Grace Lin’s creation of A Fu and Da Fu.)

Grace Lin is famous for her illustrations, which are incredibly detailed and beautiful. You can follow her artistic process when she posts paintings in progress on her Facebook page! 

In an interview with Xiaoning on the Chinasprout blog , Grace explains, “my illustration trademark has become ‘swirls in the sky.'” Read the section of the interview below and notice her description of the symbolism of the right-turning swirl. What does this say about Grace as an author/illustrator? What did you learn about Grace from her explanation and did it contribute to your understanding of the book?

However, during my research for Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, I found that a right-turning swirl had symbolic meaning in Chinese culture. The swirl (like the endless knot) could be seen as symbol for the eternal circle, the continuity of life without a beginning or end and is always interconnected. And by spiraling to the right (clockwise), the swirl echoes the movement of the sun, moon and stars against the celestial sky. Supposedly, even the hairs on the Buddha’s head as well as his belly-button swirl to the right.

This knowledge thrilled me. The eternal circle, the endless knot–these symbols correspond with the themes of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. In the book, small, seemingly unrelated stories are slowly revealed to be connected—the fates of a fruitless mountain, a dragon that can’t fly, a lost paper revealing the secret to happiness, and the fortune of a young girl are all intertwined in the circle of the novel. I immediately decided that I would paint all the swirls for the book right turning, to follow the movement of the moon.

So enthused was I about this, that I asked for the cover art to be returned so that I could “fix” it (for catalog purposes, the publisher had asked for the cover art to be done first—before the book was finished). I could change the art for the final cover they told me, but the old image—the one with both left- and right-handed swirls, was already being used for the advanced reading copy and publicity. Still, I felt strongly that I wanted to change it.

However, after years of painting swirls haphazardly, the discipline of painting right-handed swirls turned out to be more difficult than I thought. I would get halfway through painting the background swirls when my eyes would lose focus and suddenly I couldn’t remember which way was the “right” way. Many, many, many times after I thought the painting was finished, I would suddenly see a left-turning swirl and have to correct it. Right-turning swirls suddenly did become an endless circle of life for me!

I think it was worth it, even though I know it’ll be lucky if viewers even register the swirls much less the direction they are turning. For some reason, I believe these nuances make a difference—if only to let me feel that the purpose for the patterns I paint are a subtle visual message that I am communicating.

But, if you see a left-turning swirl anywhere in the book, don’t tell me.

March 1 – Post #4

For the fourth week of our online book club, we read Chapters 20 – 26. We would love to have you join us by responding to one of the questions below or posing your own questions in the Comments section.

Stop and Think: Characters Change
As Pa and Ma walk through the forest and return home (in Chapter 20) and as they continue with their daily life in Chapter 25, Ma’s character seems to be changing. Can you find three examples?

Theme: Stories
Minli meets the king and thinks she has found the “borrowed line.” Meanwhile, Dragon meets the lions that guard the City of Bright Moonlight, and he thinks he has found the “borrowed line.” When they are together again, Minli and the Dragon share their stories. How are their stories about finding the “borrowed line” similar? How are their stories different? Which do you think is the true “borrowed line”?

February 23 – Post #3

We are in week #3 of our One Book, One Conference, but it’s never to late to join the conversation! This week’s questions relate to chapters 14 – 19. Please join us by sharing your thoughts or responses in the Comments section here or in earlier posts.

Theme: Good Fortune or The Secret to Happiness
(from the Little-Brown Educator’s Guide, prepared by Jennifer McMahon)
As Ma and Ba think about whether or not they should let Minli change their fortune, Ba says it is like trying to find the paper of happiness. In the story he tells, the secret of happiness is shared, but it is lost.

Stop and Think: Make Predictions
What do you think was written on the missing paper? What one word might be the secret to happiness? Why do you think that?

Stop and Think: Compare and Contrast
In chapters 17 – 20, Minli meets the Buffalo Boy and visits his home. She notices some differences between their homes. What differences do you notice? Are there any similarities?

Notice the peach in chapter 14, which stands for longevity. If Minli and the Dragon outsmart the monkeys in a peach orchard, what could the peach symbol mean? The color blue, which often represents gods and goddesses, is featured in The Story of the Buffalo Boy’s Friend. What could it signify?


February 16 – Post #2

Welcome to Week #2! It’s never too late to join, so feel free to jump in and add your thoughts and reactions to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon in the Comments section. Respond to one or to all of the questions below. Or go back to a previous post and make a comment there. (For more detailed information, see Resources page located in the header above and on the sidebar at the right.)

Author’s Craft: Changing Perspective (from the Little-Brown Educator’s Guide, prepared by Jennifer McMahon)
The author uses a writing technique that involves changing perspectives between chapters. Why do you think the author chose to do this? How does it help the reader draw connections between and among characters? How does it add suspense to the story?

Stop and Think: Make Connections
Minli helps the Dragon get out of the ropes that entangle him. Does this remind you of another folk tale in which a small creature helps a huge, possibly-scary, wild animal out of a net? How does making this connection help you understand this story better?

Symbols: Notice the number 9 in The Story of the Goldfish Man. If the number 9 is a symbol for forever or longevity, why do you think the author used that number in this story?

February 9 – Post #1


Welcome to MRA’s 2016 One Book, One Conference! Below are our first three topics for discussion. We welcome your thoughts, ideas, and teaching notes in the Comments section (found at the top of this post). More detailed information is at the bottom of this post.

1. Symbols: Introduction to Chinese Symbols

“In Chinese culture, an object, a number, or a word can have another meaning. Sometimes what a word looks like or sounds like can turn it into a symbol for another thing. For example, in Chinese, the word for the number “4” sounds the same as the word for “death.” When this happens in the English language, like with the words bear (animal) and bear (carry), we call it a homonym. Because of the homonym for the number four in Chinese, the number is seen as unlucky.” (From Kirsten Cappy’s Reader’s Guide)

The number 4 is a homonym in Chinese for death, so 4 is seen as an unlucky number. Find the scene in Chapter 1 where the Jade Dragon tells her story. How is the number 4 incorporated into her story? What is the significance of this symbol?

Common Chinese Symbols to look for as you read

4 = unlucky
9 = forever, longevity
peach = longevity (e.g., of friendship, etc)
pearl = good fortune
dragon = good fortune
fish = wealth
white rabbit = moon, longevity
tiger = king of beasts, powerful energy
blue = immortality, gods/goddesses
red = happiness, good luck


2. Theme: The Role of Stories

Stories play a crucial role in this book. There are stories-within-stories, and characters have different attitudes towards storytelling. How do Ba and Ma view stories differently? What does this difference tell us about their characters?

3. Stop and Think: Making Predictions

The Things Menli Packed: In chapter 5, Menli packs a number of useful items in her blanket. Consider each one and make a prediction about how it might be useful to a young girl setting off on an adventure. Keep track of your predictions as you read the book and notice how Menli uses each item.


USEFUL INFORMATION: Resources and Participation

Resources: There are resources in the sidebar on the right. There you will find a couple of very helpful Reader’s Guides, links to interviews with Grace Lin, and links to videos.

At the Back of the Book: Grace Lin includes a Reader’s Guide (with discussion questions that might be helpful for reading this book with students) and a “Behind the Story” section with notes and photos at the back of the book. Be sure to check it out!

How to Participate: For each Tuesday blog post, we will read a few chapters, provide some information to ponder and a couple of questions related to 5 main categories (Symbols, Themes, Author’s Craft, Illustrations, and Stop and Think). Read the chapters, then respond to one or all the questions in the Comments Section. Share your own thoughts about the text, your students’ ideas, or any additional activities or concepts you used in your teaching.

Make a Comment: The heart of this blog will be the discussion among participants in the Comments section. Please comment often with little ideas or profound thoughts: all are welcome! Please begin your comment by identifying the category (Symbols, Themes, Author’s Craft, Illustrations, and Stop and Think, or General).. Whenever possible, respond to another person’s comment on the same topic.


MORE INFORMATION: Our Five Main Topics

In this book, as in many folktales, symbols are used frequently. We’ll explore ways that Grace Lin uses Chinese symbols to make the story richer and allows it to be read on multiple levels. As a reader, you’ll find deeper meaning in the story by identifying and thinking about the symbols; and as a teacher, you’ll find your students will be engaged by looking for clues and solving the puzzles of different symbols.

Several themes run through this book. In this online book club, we’ll follow a few different themes in particular:

Red Thread and Connections
The Role of Stories
Good Fortune (and Happiness)

Author’s Craft
Good readers notice the author’s craft and “read like a writer.” As we go along reading this book, we will notice the author’s craft and various techniques Grace Lin uses to enrich her story, such as changing perspectives, stories-within-a-story, figurative language, and careful word choice.

Grace Lin is an extremely talented artist. Her rich illustrations bring additional understandings to this book, create the mood, and enhance the reader’s experience. Pay careful attention to the details in the illustrations and also notice the simpler drawings and decorations that adorn chapter headings and stories.

Stop and Think
Good readers “Stop and Think” while they read. As you read this book with your students, encourage them to Stop and Think and apply a comprehension strategy, such as making predictions, visualizing, making connections, comparing and contrasting, etc. We’ll address each of these specifically with certain chapters.

Any questions? Just email me at

Laura Broach
MRA 2016 Conference Chair
MRA President-elect

MRA One Book, One Conference Kick off!

Welcome to the MRA One Book, One Conference online book club. We are excited to begin an online conversation about Grace Lin’s Newbery Honor Book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Grace Lin is the 2016 recipient of the MRA Children’s Literature Award.

Beginning February 9, we will be hosting an online discussion here, divided into two strands. One strand will encourage a conversation about the book as readers (discussing characters, symbols, etc.) and the second strand will promote discussion as teachers (sharing tips for teaching the book, ways to use the book with different age groups, etc.). For the first discussion session on February 9, we will read and discuss chapters 1 – 4. We encourage you to participate!

Here are some tips for making the most out of this online book club experience:

  1. Make sure you have a copy of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon! Visit your school or local library or purchase your own copy: Alran Books is selling copies of the book online for only $7.99. Click here or on the link at the top of the page to purchase your copy.
  2. Bookmark and visit this blog weekly to find new posts, read others’ ideas, and share your thoughts on the book.
  3. To read others’ comments and add your own, look for the small word “Comments” at the top of each post — or find all the Comments in the Sidebar on the right.
  4. Plan to attend the MRA 2016 Conference on April 7-8 and hear Grace Lin’s Keynote Presentation on The Extra Adjective: How I Came to Terms with Being a Multicultural Book Author. Click here for more information on the MRA 2016 Conference.
  5. Contact me if you have any questions! LauraBroachMRA@gmail.comMRA 2016 logo FINALno Border

MRA 2016 Conference Details

MRA 2016 Conference

The Many Voices of Literacy

April 7 – 8, 2016

Boston Marriott, Quincy, MA


Grace Lin, author of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, will be giving the Afternoon Keynote on Thursday, April 7. She will also be participating at the Authors and Appetizers event later that evening.

Registration is open!

Find more information at the MRA website:

You can order your book from Alison Weber at Alran Books.

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