Starry River of the Sky
Little, Brown, 2012.
Grace Lin’s new middle-grade fantasy, Starry River of the Sky, is a gem every bit as compelling as its companion, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, and cut from the same bedrock too: it masterfully weaves Chinese folklore into a richly textured yarn about magic, unexpected connections and the power of stories to shape our lives.
When Rendi finds a job as a helper at an Inn after running away from home in anger, he finds the small, in-the-middle-of-nowhere village of Clear Sky and its inhabitants mysteriously odd and out of sorts. For starters, the moon seems to be missing. Then there is Peiyi, the innkeeper’s daughter, whom he loves to tease and whose brother has disappeared; an unhappy neighbor who argues all the time; Mr. Shan, who seems confused about his pet; and finally, Madame Chang, a mysterious and beautiful woman with a gift for storytelling.
While cursing his past and planning his escape from the village, Rendi is both captivated and haunted by Madame Chang’s stories, as well as by the stories the others around him start sharing. Instead of giving him answers, though, these tales seem to leave him with even more questions. Could these people and what they are revealing possibly be related to the missing moon and to the disappearance of Peiyi’s brother? Could they even be related to his own story?
The realism of the characters blended with familiar folktales (which appear in a different font, to differentiate them from the rest of the narrative) and well-placed fantastical elements allows readers to feel magically connected to Rendi and the world of Clear Sky. As the stories within the story start transforming the characters’ lives, we follow Rendi’s journey from anger and confusion toward compassion and understanding, and—reluctantly, at first—toward what he knows in his heart he must do.
With stunning full-color page illustrations sprinkled throughout, Starry River of the Sky is a beautiful, quiet, rich, and memorable book. Heartfully and skillfully executed, it is thoroughly enchanting—and a find at any age!