Ahoy there me mateys! So last Tuesday’s theme for “Top Ten Tuesday” was “Books I LOVED with Fewer than 2,000 Ratings on Goodreads.” I don’t tend to do memes here in me log but I love readin’ the posts by me crew. Especially when they be fun topics which lead me to unexpected treasures. One such gem was this delightful book recommended by Jackie @ deathbytsundoku. In her post she says:
The Crystal Ribbon is a treasure hidden in the middle-grade universe. I picked this book up thanks to Amanda @ Cover2CoverMom and couldn’t be happier. Set in medieval China, Lim’s debut novel is an Odyssey-style story where 12-year-old Jing is sold as a bride to a 3-year-old boy; mostly to become his nursemaid. As Jing’s situation becomes worse and worse, she decides to escape and find her way home. Obviously, adventures occur and the legends from Chinese folklore come to life. An incredible tale I recommend to all ages.
Now Matey Amanda is also on me crew and yet somehow I missed her original post which does in fact have some awesome books listed on it. This novel only has 224 ratings on Goodreads. I am happy to be adding one more.
I enjoyed many, many things about this novel. It is a debut written by a Chinese woman born and raised in Malaysia and educated, as she says, “everywhere.” The book takes place in AD 1102 in the Taiyuan province of medieval China during the Northern Song dynasty. The practice of an older girl being married to a young child to serve as a nursemaid, called tongyang xi, is a real practice that still happens today in rural China even though it was outlawed by the Chinese Communist Party. While the author grew up with stories told by her grandmother about women surviving and enduring horrors and persevering, she felt that none of them were ever broke free and so it was part of the impetus of her writing the novel. Also her website states:
The turning point was when I finally began to realize and appreciate the magic that is unique to my own culture and heritage. I came to understand — Hey, we have magic, too! My culture has fox demons, dragons, monkey gods and most of all, kung fu!! (yelled with the same vigor as Po the Dragon Warrior) If I could fall in love with fairies and elves and wishing chairs, other children could fall in love with the wonders of Asian stories, too. And I truly wanted to be someone who could bring such magic to children, just like what authors such as Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl had done for me.
I also love the magical elements like the huli jing, baigu jing, and the creatures that help out. But the best part of the novel is Li Jing. She is a truly wonderful character. Despite all that she goes through, Jing remains hard-working and caring. Watching her grow and mature was a pleasure. She has her tantrums and crying episodes but instead of breaking down, her being is tempered into something stronger, more solid, and more mature. It was also nice to see that magic couldn’t fix everything. Jing gets scars that show and learns to not hide them or dwell on the past. It is a lesson that I certainly could improve on. But above all Jing helps shape her own future.
This book was well-written, engaging, and empowering. Seriously this book is for all ages. Check it out!
Goodreads has this to say about the novel (edited to remove spoilers – words in brackets are mine):
In the village of Huanan, in medieval China, the deity that rules is the Great Huli Jing. Though twelve-year-old Li Jing’s name is a different character entirely from the Huli Jing, the sound is close enough to provide constant teasing-but maybe is also a source of greater destiny and power. Jing’s life isn’t easy. Her father is a poor tea farmer, and her family has come to the conclusion that in order for everyone to survive, Jing must be sacrificed for the common good. She is sold as a bride to the Koh family, where she will be the wife and nursemaid to their three-year-old son, Ju’nan. It’s not fair, and Jing feels this bitterly, especially when she is treated poorly by the Koh’s . . . [which] leads Jing to believe her only option is to run away, and find home again. With the help of [unexpected friends along the way] . . . Jing embarks on a quest back to Huanan–and to herself.
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