Young Minli’s family has always struggled to survive, but she does not mind. Days of hard labor to produce just enough rice for her parents and herself are always followed by evenings of her father’s legends about dragons and other magical creatures. Minli’s mother, however, takes life much more seriously. Although she reluctantly humors Minli’s father, she remains dissatisfied with their lot.
Minli’s optimistic innocence finally gets the better of her when a goldfish man comes to their village. He claims his goldfish will bring her family good luck, so Minli buys a fish with one of her two small coins-the only money the family has. Prompted by her mother’s disapproval, Minli decides to dump the goldfish in a nearby river, but soon discovers that the fish can talk. Its advice sends Minli on an adventure that will indeed bring good fortune to her family-but not in the manner that Minli expects.
Grace Lin’s captivating story weaves together Minli’s travels, her parents’ anguish in her absence and fairy tales based on Chinese folklore. Minli proves to be a resourceful girl who puts the needs of others before her own. Her dogged determination and humble obedience to the goldfish’s instructions lead her through many adventures in which she makes new friends and discovers that happiness does not come from material goods. Their concern for their daughter helps Minli’s parents rediscover their love for each other and reassess their priorities. Young readers will be delighted to see how the strands of three seemingly unrelated stories fit together in Lin’s Newbery Honor book.
Jennifer Minicus is a mother and teacher currently living in Ridgewood, NJ.