Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a juvenile fiction novel by Grace Lin, author of The Year of the Dog. While Lin tells the tale of the courageous Minli, she also imbeds other story vignettes that weave together and connect in complicated ways.
The main character, Minli, is a young Chinese girl scraping by with her poor parents in the village at the base of Fruitless Mountain. With nothing else to occupy them in the evenings, Minli’s father spins tales of the Old Man in the Moon and the Jade Dragon. Minli’s parents desperately hope she can change the family’s fortune. Inspired by her father’s stories and dedicated to her family, Minli decides to leave and seek a more prosperous future for them all. The objective of her quest is to find the Old Man of the Moon who possesses the power to change a person’s fortune.
Minli thus begins a traditional quest. During her journey, she comes across many challenges. At the onset of the quest, she meets Dragon. It is a mystical dragon, born from a painting that was supposedly owned by the evil Magistrate Tiger (who serves as the villain of the book). When Minli finds Dragon, it can’t fly and is caught up in some ropes. Minli rescues Dragon and includes him in her quest to find the Old Man of the Moon.
The two unlikely allies travel together in search of the Old Man, coming upon many different places along the way. In order to find the Old Man, the pair must find the Never-Ending Mountain. They stop at the City of the Bright Moonlight to meet the King. With the help of a buffalo boy, Minli tracks down the King. He in turn gives her a line of text written on a page that the Magistrate Tiger ripped out of the Old Man of the Moon's Book of Fortune. Meanwhile, as Dragon waits outside of the city, he receives a string of destiny from one of the Guardians of the City.
As their quest continues, Minli and Dragon face the vicious Green Tiger, who is the On their way towards the mountain, Dragon and Minli encounter the evil Green Tiger, the reawakened spirit of Magistrate Tiger. A battle between the Green Tiger and Dragon ensues, and Dragon is mortally wounded. Frightened for her new-found friend, Minli goes for help and finds two twins: A-Fu and Da-Fu. The twins befriend Minli and want to help her. Through their cunning, they trick Green Tiger into falling down a well. Then the twins, and their grandfather A-Gong, nurse Dragon and lead the travelers to Never-Ending Mountain.
When they reach their destination, Minli and Dragon are devastated to discover they cannot climb it. After some collaboration, they realize they can use their lines (the line of text and the line of destiny) to form a kite and fly up to the moon. At that point, the string turns into a bridge Minli uses to walk up to the moon and visit the Old Man. When she arrives to find the Old Man of the Moon, he offers her what seems to be a Spartan gift: she can only ask him a single question. A difficult choice faces the girl. She can either ask him to fix her family’s fortune, or she can ask him to help Dragon fly. Two destinies at stake.
The depth of Minli’s affection for Dragon is put to the test, as is her loyalty to her family. All at once, Minli realizes that she can live wither fortune; it is not that bad. It is at this point she asks the Old Man in the Moon Dragon’s question. The Old Man instructs Minli to remove a rock on Dragon’s head – it has been keeping Dragon from flight. She obeys and almost immediately, Dragon can fly. Together, the two fly back to Minli’s village, so she can return to her parents. However, that is far from the end of this intricate tale.
The “rock” that Minli removed from Dragon’s head turns out to be the coveted Dragon Pearl. This brings enormous wealth to Minli’s village which alters her family’s fortune dramatically. In returning to Fruitless Mountain, Dragon also meets his mother, Jade Dragon. Reunited with her son, Jade Dragon transforms Fruitless Mountain into Fruitful Mountain, allowing it to grow again. Because of what seemed like a personal sacrifice in favor of helping a friend, Minli and her family receive all they ever hoped for and more.