In young Pinmei’s quiet village, her wise grandmother, Amah, is famed for her wonderful stories. Eager listeners are enthralled by Amah’s steady voice and rare ability to bring the rich myths of their Ancient China to life. Stories provide a way to forget about the worrying lack of food and the suspicious new emperor, who raids villages for workers to build an enormous wall around the kingdom. But no story can distract from the sudden abduction of Amah by the emperor himself!
Pinmei and her friend Yishan are eager to rescue the beloved storyteller from the clutches of the nasty ruler, yet they are not sure of how to obtain her ransom — the Luminous Stone That Lights the Night. The kids aren’t sure what the mysterious stone truly is, although that doesn’t stop them for heading out on an epic quest to save Amah.
Unexpectedly, they are joined by incredible characters from Amah’s tales, from the Sea King to a mighty dragon. Pinmei and Yishan’s selfless adventures lead them through lands as dangerous as they are mystical. Grace Lin’s When the Sea Turned to Silver is a magical book that will be enjoyed by anyone who loves a good story.
When I was younger, I loved Grace Lin’s books. One of my favorites was Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, which is a companion to When the Sea Turned to Silver. So, I was delighted to discover that Lin hasn’t lost her creative touch at all!
The idea of a girl going on an adventure to save an elderly relative is an old one — not that it isn’t full of potential. What really makes this book stand out is the fantastic incorporation of Chinese folktales. In many of the chapters, either Pinmei or her grandmother tells an engrossing folktale in an easy, flowing manner that makes readers feel like they are comfortably listening around a campfire. The stories are not just pretty words to expand the page count; rather, the characters and objects featured in the stories eventually become critical to Pinmei and Yishan’s journey. It’s refreshing to read about Chinese myths when most of the ancient cultures that schools and books focus on are from Greece, Rome, Egypt, or most recently, Norway (Percy Jackson author Rick Riordan’s new Magnus Chase series).
The main cast of characters is wonderful. Pinmei is a great main character—emotional, driven, clever, and sufficiently flawed to be realistic. Her extreme shyness is a significant challenge to overcome. Kids who wish they could speak up more will find comfort in her achievements by the end of the novel. Her friend, Yishan, is a loyal and brave companion whose secret provides a surprising twist to the plot. Amah is the kind of lovable grandmother that everyone would want to have.
Additionally, readers who have not yet enjoyed the two companion novels Where the Mountain Meets the Moon or Starry River of the Sky need not worry. I haven’t picked up a Lin book in years, and I still understood the plot and setting.
Lin’s When the Sea Turned to Silver sets readers on a sweeping mystical journey that is not to be missed.