We booksellers read a LOT, wildly skewing the national reading average. Anyone reading ShelfTalker is very likely a member of that same club. We are all so happily accustomed to reading really good books, well written and well told. With standards that are high to begin with, it is a rare treat to come across books that surprise us with their freshness or unusual point of view, or that are told so compellingly that we just don’t want to put them down. Don’t you just love those books?!
I felt that way about Grace Lin’s Starry River of the Sky. A companion book to the Newbery Honor book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, this one absolutely can stand on its own, although the experience is richer if you’ve read both.
Here, a runaway boy has stowed himself in a wine vendor’s cart, only to be discovered, hauled out, and left behind in a tiny village called Clear Sky, where an innkeeper agrees to take him on as a worker. Rendi, the boy, is unhappy with this arrangement, but until some other form of transportation arrives, he’s stuck; Clear Sky is in the middle of nowhere, with only a giant flat rock stretching into the dry land as far as the eye can see.
The magic in this story lies in its light touch, its humor, the sweet quirkiness of the characters, the marvelous Chinese myths and legends woven throughout, and most of all, in the river of goodness that radiates from it. Lin is a kind writer, not afraid to address sorrow and anger and grief, but always in a way that ultimately brings out the light and compassion in her characters.
I found I didn’t want to put this book down. It was such a fresh drink, full of strangeness and delight.
Is there a book this year you’ve felt that way about, the kind of book you always know the location of in your house or car or store, the kind your fingers itch unconsciously to pick back up when you’ve had to put it down?