Book Club: One for you and one for with the kids.
When my children were young, a group of parents wanted to start a book club where the parents and the kids participated together. We’d all read the same book and discuss. The trick was to find a book that the kids could read, and keep both the parent and child interested. Our goal for each month is to find such a book, so that you can either read to your child or form your own parent/child book club.
The second book of our club is for you the adult, that it may expand your worldview with ideas and prose that may not be completely understood by the younger mind.
One to Read with the Kids: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Recommended by Alexandria McAlpine
Where The Mountain Meets The Moon is an enchanting tale for people of any age. Beautifully written, it can be read to a young person each night, or just by oneself.
The novel is centered around a girl named Minli who ventures away from her impoverished village to find the fabled “Old Man of the Moon” in order to ask him how to change her family’s fortune. Along the way, she makes friends in unexpected places as she finds the answers to her many questions.
Throughout the story, short interesting chinese folklore-esque tales are woven in and told by the various characters. There are many good lessons of personal values for kids but the story also offers food for thought for adults to have them come away satisfied after some very touching moments.
It presents many sweet morals as Minli starts to learn what true fortune is, and how one can achieve happiness without any riches. Some people might find the lessons and experiences Minli learns simplified or slightly unrealistic (for example, working all day in the hot sun to harvest barely enough food for a family meal is not exactly “good fortune” even with good company). But keep in mind this also is a novel of dragons, and talking fish, and a magical man who ties the world together and where everything works out in the end.
The very end seems a bit rushed compared to the rest of the novel’s intricate attention to details, but overall much attention was paid to imagery and description, although not enough to take away from the adventure or plot of the story. The descriptions are only enhanced by the beautiful drawings scattered throughout the novel.
Minli’s adventure has many twists and turns incorporating a tangle of folktales which are all cleverly tied together by the end. Where The Mountain Meets The Moon offers much enjoyment for both kids and adults.
One for the adult: When the Emperor was Divine
Recommended by Joanne McAlpine
A mother prepares to leave her home, taking her children with her,, a move ordered by their government because of their heritage. The children come home from school unaware of the impending move and continue their day like any other, asking about the dog they will never see again, studying for a test that will never be taken. This is not a story of a future dystopia littering our bookshelves today but rather a historical fiction peaking the reader’s interest with a little known time in our history
When the Emperor was Divine, a novel by author Julie Otsuka, follows a Japanese American family who is ordered, like many others, to live in an internment camp for the duration of World War II. Otsuka never names the characters in the book, as if to say it could have happen to any family. You hear their dreams of the past and hopes for the future that slowly break down over time, eventually leaving them worn out and tired when they finally return home years later.
Even though it’s a sad story, Otsuka takes you on a journey that cannot be experienced in any other way. Beautifully written, the words fall from the page to leave you engrossed in your imagination. You feel the family’s pain as they start to loose hope of ever returning home and no longer search for news from the outside of whether the war has ended. You get a glimpse of a young girl going through puberty while interned, and a boy watching over his mother and always looking for his father.
Glimpses of the father comes out here and there throughout the book, until the end when we hear his voice, an angry, exhausted, beaten down voice. Otsuka said at a book club gathering at the Loudoun County Public Library’s 1book 1Community program that her editor requested her to take out the last chapter, where the father’s voice, because it was so different from the rest of the book and some people may find it offensive. She said she left it in because she felt the father’s voice wanted to be heard. I am glad it was left in because I could not help wonder what happened to the father and that last chapter gives you a hint of his internment.
This small novel is an easy read with short prose that draws you into another world, making you appreciate your freedom and question decisions about humanity towards our fellow neighbors.
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Alexandria McAlpine is an avid reader. She blogs at Foto Phashions