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Video: Author on new kids’ book

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    woman: to cvs.com before december 31st

    >>> this morning on "al's book club to kids," where the mountain meets the moon. a young woman is fascinated with folk tales and sets out in search of the old man of the moon. grace lynn wrote "where the mountain meets the moon," and our book club kids are tatiana perry, dellroy brockett, danielle azanini, ian goldstein and treasure nolton. good to see you guys. nice to meet you, grace.

    >> nice to meet you, too.

    >> it's a beautiful book, beautifully written, beautifully illustrated. and you grew up reading chinese folk tales.

    >> mm-hmm. actually, when i was younger, i was very ashamed of my culture and i wasn't really --

    >> why was that?

    >> i grew up in upstate new york where there was not a very diverse community, so i was the only asian in my classroom, and except for my sisters, i was the only asian in my whole school. so, a lot of the time i spent trying to forget that i was asian or trying to ignore my heritage.

    >> but your mom gave you some of these to try to help bolster that.

    >> yeah. so, she knew that i loved books, so her way of kind of sneaking the culture in was to give me these chinese fairy tale books.

    >> then you had a life-changing experience when you took a trip to china when you were in college.

    >> yeah. i went to china and i actually got a great opportunity to travel to hong kong and taiwan, and it was there that these stories i read when i was younger came to life and then all of a sudden kind of jumbled together and became the book.

    >> so, "where the mountain meets the moon," has that been a dream of yours?

    >> it's kind of -- i guess so, you could say that. it was kind of a dream that came to me while i was traveling.

    >> okay. let's start off with our book club kids, because i know they've got some questions. tatiana , what's your question for grace?

    >> what made you decide for the valley to be called valley of the mountain ?

    >> why did i decide that? it's called the valley of the fruitless mountain because the mountain at the very beginning, nothing grows on it because it is actually the sad, broken heart of jade dragon , who is children have left. so, nothing grows on it, so that's why it's fruitless, because there's no fruit.

    >> there's no fruit. no fruit for you! ian, what's your question?

    >> was there a specific chinese folk tale that you decided to write the book because of?

    >> was there a specific chinese folk tale that i decided to write the book because of? well, the whole book is actually very, very roughly based on a folk tale called "olive lake," which is a very, very old, obscure folk tale , and what's different is that in the book it's a young girl that goes on a journey, and in "olive lake" it was a young man who went out west. so, i changed that.

    >> since you're a young lady .

    >> definitely.

    >> daniel, how about you some.

    >> did the moral of the stories come from a real-life experience?

    >> did the moral of the story come from a real-life experience? um, yes and no. i think when i was writing this book, actually, my late husband, passed away, and while that was happening, i realized i was really, really grateful and very, very thankful for all the time that we had together, and so, that was the moral of the story, to be thankful for the love that you have.

    >> and what do you have? what questions do you have for grace?

    >> by the way, i like the book. now, my question is that when the gold fisherman gave min lee a gold fish , he said it was good luck. what do you mean by that in the book?

    >> what do i mean that a gold fish is good luck in the book? well, in chinese cultural , gold fish and gold translates into gold ain your house. so, gold is a very lucky, auspicious symbol, so that's why they like to have gold in their house.

    >> treasure, what's your question?

    >> my question is, how similar are you to min lee?

    >> how similar am i to min lee? well, that's a very good question. i guess i'm similar in a point. i think min lee is very earnest and she always tries her very best, and i think that's kind of like me, but hopefully, she's not a goodie two shoes. i hope i'm not a goodie two shoes.

    >> and tatiana ?

    >> i asked my question.

    >> but you look like there's something else you want to ask.

    >> yes. did you enjoy writing this book?

    >> did i enjoy writing this book? yes. i loved writing this book. this book, a lot of children asked me what's my favorite book that i've written and illustrated, and i say this one is my absolute favorite because not only does it have the writing that i love, in the interior, there's colored illustrations, which is very unusual for a novel like this. and so, this book, i got to do both things that i love, which is writing and illustrating.

    >> well, grace lynn and our book club kids, thank you very much. the book is "where the mountain meets the moon." now, time to reveal our next book club choice, two oldies but goodies . 2010 marks the 80th anniversary of the beloved nancy drew series. so, in honor of this historic occasion, we're going to read nancy drew 's "the secret of the old clock " by carolyn keen and "the harthe hardy boys "the tower treasure " by dixon. these are books i read as a child. yes, they're that old. thank you very much, kids.

TODAY books
updated 12/4/2009 10:29:41 AM ET 2009-12-04T15:29:41

In the valley of Fruitless Mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man on the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life's questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man on the Moon to ask him how she can change her family's fortune. An excerpt.

From chapter one
Far away from here, following the Jade River, there was once a black mountain that cut into the sky like a jagged piece of rough metal. The villagers called it Fruitless Mountain because nothing grew on it and birds and animals did not rest there.

Crowded in the corner of where Fruitless Mountain and the Jade River met was a village that was a shade of faded brown. This was because the land around the village was hard and poor. To coax rice out of the stubborn land, the fields had to be flooded with water. The villagers had to tramp in the mud, bending and stooping and planting day after day. Working in the mud so much made it spread everywhere and the hot sun dried it onto their clothes and hair and homes. Over time, everything in the village had become the dull color of dried mud.

One of the houses in this village was so small that its wood boards, held together by the roof, made one think of a bunch of matches tied with a piece of twine. Inside, there was barely enough room for three people to sit around the table — which was lucky because only three people lived there. One of them was a young girl called Minli.

Minli was not brown and dull like the rest of the village. She had glossy black hair with pink cheeks, shining eyes always eager for adventure, and a fast smile that flashed from her face. When people saw her lively and impulsive spirit, they thought her name, which meant quick thinking, suited her well. “Too well,” her mother sighed, as Minli had a habit of quick acting as well.

Ma sighed a great deal, an impatient noise usually accompanied with a frown at their rough clothes, rundown house, or meager food. Minli could not remember a time when Ma did not sigh; it often made Minli wish she had been called a name that meant gold or fortune instead. Because Minli and her parents, like the village and the land around them, were very poor. They were barely able to harvest enough rice to feed themselves, and the only money in the house was two old copper coins that sat in a blue rice bowl with a white rabbit painted on it. The coins and the bowl belonged to Minli; they had been given to her when she was a baby, and she had had them for as long as she could remember.

What kept Minli from becoming dull and brown like the rest of the village were the stories her father told her every night at dinner. She glowed with such wonder and excitement that even Ma would smile, though she would shake her head at the same time. Ba seemed to drop his gray and work weariness — his black eyes sparkled like raindrops in the sun when he began a story.

“Ba, tell me the story about Fruitless Mountain again,” Minli would say as her mother spooned their plain rice into bowls. “Tell me again why nothing grows on it.”

“Ah,” Minli’s father said, “you’ve heard this so many times. You know.”

“Tell me again, Ba,” Minli begged. “Please.”

“Okay,” he said, and as he set down his chopsticks his smile twinkled in a way that Minli loved.

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The story of fruitless mountain
Once when there were no rivers on the earth, the Jade Dragon was in charge of clouds. She decided when and where the clouds would rain upon the land and when they would stop. She was very proud of her power and of the reverence the people of earth paid her. Jade Dragon had four dragon children: Pearl, Yellow, Long, and Black. They were large and strong and good and kind. They helped Jade Dragon with her work and whenever they flew in the sky she was overwhelmed with love and pride.

However, one day, as Jade Dragon ended the rain and moved the clouds away from the land, she overheard some villagers’ conversation.

“Ah, thank goodness the rain is gone,” one man said.

“Yes,” another said, “I’m so tired of the rain. I’m glad the clouds are gone and the sun is finally shining.”

Those words filled Jade Dragon with anger. Tired of rain! Glad the clouds were gone! Jade Dragon was indignant. How dare the villagers dishonor her that way!

Jade Dragon was so offended that she decided that she would never let it rain again. “The people can enjoy the sun forever,” Jade Dragon thought resentfully.

Of course, that meant despair for the people on earth. As the sun beat overhead and the rain never came, drought and famine spread over the land. Animals and trees withered and died and the people begged for rain, but Jade Dragon ignored them.

But their suffering did not go unnoticed by Jade Dragon’s children. They were horrified at the anguish and misery on earth. One by one, they went to their mother and pleaded forgiveness for the humans — but even their words did not soften their mother’s cold heart. “We will never make it rain for the people again,” Jade Dragon vowed.

Pearl, Yellow, Long, and Black met in secret.

“We must do something to help the people,” Black said, “If they do not get water soon, they will all die.”

“Yes,” Yellow said, “but what can we do? We cannot make it rain. We cannot dishonor Mother with disobedience.”

Long looked down at the earth. “I will sacrifice myself for the people of earth,” he said. “I will lie on the land and transform myself into water for them to drink.”

The others looked at him in astonishment, but one by one they nodded.

“I will do the same,” Yellow said.

“As will we,” Pearl and Black said.

So Jade Dragon’s children went down to earth and turned themselves into water, saving the people on the earth. They became the four great rivers of land, stopping the drought and death of all those on earth.

But when Jade Dragon saw what her children had done, she cursed herself for her pride. No longer would her dragon children fly in the air with her or call her Mother. Her heart broke in grief and sadness; she fell from the sky and turned herself into the Jade River in hopes that she could somehow be reunited with her children.

Fruitless Mountain is the broken heart of Jade Dragon. Nothing grows or lives on the mountain; the land around it is hard and the water of the river is dark because Jade Dragon’s sad spirit is still there. Until Jade Dragon is no longer lonely and reunited with at least one of her children, Fruitless Mountain will remain bare.

“Why doesn’t someone bring the water of the four great rivers to the mountain?” Minli asked, even though she had asked this question many times before. Every time Ba told the story, she couldn’t help think how wonderful it would be to have the mountain blooming with fruit and flowers, bringing richness to their needy village. “Wouldn’t that make Jade Dragon happy?”

“When Jade Dragon’s children turned themselves into water,” Minli’s father said, “they were at peace and their spirits were released. Their spirits are no longer in the water. So Jade Dragon cannot find them in the rivers. Over a hundred years ago, a man tried to reunite them by taking stones from the mountain to the rivers.”

“That man was not taking the stone for a dragon spirit,” Minli’s mother cut in. She never quite approved of Ba’s stories as she felt they made Minli impractical and caused her to daydream. “My grandmother told me he was an artist. He took the mountain rock to carve into inking stones.”

“Did he ever come back?” Minli asked.

“No. It probably did not make good ink,” Ma sighed. “He probably found something finer elsewhere. I bet the bronze on his horse’s saddle was more than we will ever have.”

Ma’s sighs made Minli wish that every rock of Fruitless Mountain was gold and she couldn’t help asking, “So how will Fruitless Mountain ever grow green again?”

“Ah,” her father said, “that is a question you will have to ask the Old Man of the Moon.”

“Oh, tell that story next!” Minli begged. “Whenever I ask something important, people say, ‘That is a question you have to ask the Old Man of the Moon.’ Someday, I will ask him.”

“The Old Man of the Moon! Another story! Our house is bare and our rice hardly fills our bowls, but we have plenty of stories.” Ma sighed again. “What a poor fortune we have!”

“Maybe,” Ba said to Minli, glancing at Ma, “I should tell you that story tomorrow.”

Excerpted from "Where the Mountain Meets the Moon" by Grace Lin. Copyright (c) 2009, reprinted with permission from Hachette Book Group.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive

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