Review posted November 24, 2012.
Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2012. 288 pages.
2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #5 Children's Fiction: Fantasy and Science Fiction
Grace Lin has surpassed herself! Her companion novel, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, also wove Chinese fairy tales into the larger narrative, and it deservedly won a Newbery Honor. I think Starry River of the Sky is even better. You do not at all need to have read the earlier book to appreciate this one. A few characters appear in both, but each story is completely self-contained.
The first paragraph sets the stage, with the Moon missing, and Rendi stowing away in a cart.
Rendi was not sure how long the moon had been missing. He knew only that for weeks, the wind seemed to be whimpering as if the sky were suffering. At first, he had thought the moans were his own because his whole body ached from hiding in the merchant's moving cart. However, it was when the cart had stopped for the evening, when the bumping and knocking had ended, that the groans began.
Rendi is caught stowing away, but the innkeeper at the Inn of Clear Sky lets him stay on as an errand boy. He doesn't feel grateful, but he sees no way to move on. Then a beautiful woman comes to the inn. She talks to old, slow-witted Mr. Shan and she begins to tell stories to Rendi and Peiyi, the innkeeper's daughter. But she won't continue to share stories unless Rendi will tell a story himself.
Through the stories, and through events, we see Rendi begin to change. And problems are solved. But what is a boy to such overwhelming problems as a missing moon, parched and drying land, Peiyi's missing brother, and Rendi's own identity. Many people in this book are angry, and Grace Lin weaves a tale where we want them to find peace, and we come to believe they can do what it takes to put their anger aside.
Grace Lin is also an artist, so each chapter has a drawing at the start of each chapter, and there are gorgeous full color pictures every few chapters. The stories told within the chapters get their own font as well as small colored pictures on each side of the story's name. The book is a delight to hold and look at.
Although this isn't exactly a beginning chapter book, the language is simple and the concepts are all well within the grasp of an elementary age child. This would be a wonderful choice for reading to a classroom or reading to children at bedtime.