Monday, October 3, 2016

When the Sea Turned to Silver, by Grace Lin: lyrical, magical storytelling (ages 9-12)

"I never wish for you to be anyone except yourself," Amah said, looking into Pinmei's eyes. "I know that when it is time for you to do something, you will do it."
Young Pinmei often feels frozen by fear, caught in the moment when she is so afraid that she cannot act. Yet her grandmother (Amah in Chinese) has the utmost faith in her, knowing Pinmei will step forward, bravely taking action when she needs to.

Grace Lin's magical, lyrical new novel When the Sea Turned to Silver captivates and enchants readers, as Lin draws us into Pinmei's adventure. This companion to Lin's award winning book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a perfect read aloud for families.
When the Sea Turned to Silver
by Grace Lin
Little Brown, 2016
Your local library
ages 9-12
*best new book*
As the novel opens, young Pinmei lives high on Never-Ending Mountain with Amah, a famed storyteller. Winter has a firm grip on the mountain, and their rice is running low. Suddenly, Amah tells Pinmei to hide and soldiers burst into their home. Pinmei watches in horror as the Tiger Emperor and his soldiers sieze her grandmother, taking her captive.
"The soldiers growled in unison, the sound swelling into a snarl. And then, in a swift, brutal motion, like a monstrous snake swallowing its prey, the men swept Amah into the blackness of the night." 
Throughout the story, Lin's descriptions enchant the reader, drawing us deeply into Pinmei's ancient Chinese world. Her story is full of figurative language, yet the exciting action and drama keeps readers focused on what will happen next.

Pinmei's trusted friend Yishan pulls her to safety, and together they set out on a quest to find the Luminous Stone that Lights the Night, the one treasure that the emperor has said will set Amah free. As they travel, they encounter kind strangers who help them, in exchange for hearing Pinmei tell her grandmother's stories. Lin's beautiful, full color illustrations highlight key moments in the story.
Pinmei and Yishan spy on the emperor
Pinmei's stories, based on ancient Chinese folklore, intersperse the main narrative and weave into the main action as well. As Kirkus states, "Elements and characters from these folk tales feature in Pinmei’s own quest as she encounters such evocatively named figures as Nuwa’s Tear, the Paper of Answers, the Starry River, the Ginseng Boy, the Red Stone, the Iron Rod, the Green Tiger, the Black Tortoise, and the Sea King."

Short chapters and dramatic action will hook young readers, while those familiar with Lin's previous stories will revel in the recurring themes and motifs. This is a companion to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Night; unlike traditional series, these stories can be read in any order.

The recognition is just starting to accumulate for this masterful story: nominated the 2016 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, starred reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, Publisher's Weekly and Booklist. I am looking forward to hearing our students' thoughts as they start reading and responding to this magical story.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Little Brown, and we have bought multiple copies for our school libraries and classrooms. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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