Sunday, March 30, 2014

Grace Lin, Rabbit-Toads, and True Magic: Starry River of the Sky

I am magical!
So is this!!
There are lots of different magics, many of which I don't really get since I am a dog, and supposedly not a very super-intelligent one.  There's tricks done by experts, which I sometimes see on TV, and tricks done by my little person, which involve a lot of hands-behind-back action.  Then there's the magic of new dog food. Garbage left unattended can have a magic of its own, as can cats caught in a corner.

This weekend I discovered the true magic of story.  It started with a thick book with some gold on the cover, which caught my eye.  Then I saw a rabbit, and a tiger (really just a large cat, right?), and a boy carrying a sack that might contain some kind of food.  When I used my tongue to flip over the pages I saw colorful illustrations and words that were not too hard for me.  Being between meals, I flopped right over with the book resting on my furry belly.
Link to book in SAILS Network

Hours later I was brought back to reality by my family coming through the back door.  I had spent the afternoon in the wonderful world of the Village of Clear Sky.   The name makes the village sound beautiful, but it is not.  It is dry, and poor, and on one edge is "the stone pancake", a long stretch of barren stone, not a real delicious pancake.  Rendi is a boy who has run away from his rich home, hurt and angry, and has become a chore boy at the village Inn.  Every day he does his chores in a fog of anger, every night he is haunted by wails of misery that only he can hear.

I had become immersed in the world of Rendi, and the little girl Peiyi and her father the inn keeper, and the beautiful Madame Chang and old Mr. Shan with his long beard and lost eyes.  There are mysteries in the story:  Where is the moon, which has left the sky?  Why does Rendi hear sounds of pain and suffering each night?  Who is the mysterious Madame Chang who tells the amazing stories?  Why does Mr. Shan love the toad he calls "Rabbit"?  I mean really, can anyone really love a toad? They taste terrible!

I had to share this book with Mom, because she was the one who brought it home from the Library.  So I had to wait until Sunday to finish this book.  In the meantime I watched her read, and smile, and look sad, and cry, and get cranky when others bothered her while she was reading.  When she finished I could tell she was still in the Village of Clear Sky in her mind, and for quite a long time.  I had to sneak the book off the table and go back down to the basement to read it.  I think they all thought I was eating the kitty litter again!

What a story!  It is a story with other stories woven in, and you can't put it down!  Mom kept going on about "universal truths", whatever that means.  All I know is it fills your heart and soul with beauty.  It is a mystery and a fairy tale, and you want to lean up against the characters and get your ears scratched and give them doggy comfort in return.  Even I cried in parts, but I guess it sounded as though I were just whining, because Daddy took me out to pee.

This is a book of magic for everyone, but is special if you are from China or have Chinese family.  Grace Lin has created beauty in a work filled with pain and hope, and toads and snails, and rabbits and tigers, and love and regret- but most importantly with peace and forgiveness and a Moon and a Mountain!
Trying to read together - not so easy