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Far away across the ocean was the Fruitless Mountain. Nothing grew on the mountain and no birds or animals could be found there. In the shadow of this mountain was a small, poor village. The people spent their days working in the rice fields and the mud from these fields covered everything, the people’s clothes and hair and their houses. One small house looked hardly large enough for the three people who lived there, a mother and father and their daughter Minli. Minli’s name may have meant “quick thinking” but her mother thought Minli had a bad habit of acting too quickly. Her mother often worried and complained about their life. But Minli’s father told wonderful stories that made Minli glow with excitement and wonder.
One day this love of stories got her in trouble. A man selling goldfish says that having a bowl of goldfish means your house will be full of gold and jade. Minli quickly buys a goldfish although others warned her to save her coins. When her mother sees the goldfish, she slams the rice bowls on the table and scolds Minli for her foolishness. After listening to one more of her father’s stories, Minli runs away to find the Old Man of the Moon. After all, the Old Man of the Moon knows everything and can answer any question you ask. Minli is determined to ask him how to bring fortune to her home. As she sets off, the goldfish gives her clues for her journey. A talking goldfish is only the first surprise for Minli as she travels many miles and encounters greedy monkeys, a dragon, a king and more.
Spoiler alert! Some of the questions contain key elements of the plot. Do not read if you don't want to know what happens!
- The story begins with Minli buying a goldfish. Why does she buy it? How would your parents react if you did that? If you were Minli’s parent, what would you do?
- Minli goes on a long journey and has many adventures. Which was your favorite? Why?
- Many stories and characters are connected by the red thread of the Old Man of the Moon in Minli’s world. Do you see connections like this in your world?
- When Minli gets the chance to ask her one question, which question does she ask? Why?
- Does this book compare to any other you have read?
- At the end of the story, the goldfish seller returns to Fruitless Mountain. What does he find? Did you like how the story ended?
If you liked this book, try
- Fa Mulan: the Story of a Woman Warrior by Robert D. San Souci
- Amulet, Book 1, The Stonekeepern by Kazu Kibuishi
- The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
- Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
- Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Make a kite with a long red tail.
Draw a map of Minli's journey.