children’s lesson: where the mountain meets the moon

by vanessagobes

Author and Somerville, Mass resident (woot!) Grace Lin graces us with an extraordinary story of adventure and magic, while providing classic Buddhist lessons for children.  Newbery Honor recipient Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is the tale of a little girl named Minli who leaves her poor village in China to find the immortal Old Man of the Moon and change her family’s fortune.

This is a terrific book for boys or girls.  Where the Mountain Meets the Moon captivated both my 6 and 8 year olds.  And I loved it, too!  I think it’s suitable for any age, but best for K-5 graders.  I read the book aloud to them, but both could have handled it on their own.  If you have young fluent readers, this is a great alternative to Judy Moody, as Minli never says “hate” or “stupid”, nor does she have any bratty temper tantrums.

If you’d like to connect a Buddhist lesson with a great story, here’s a wonderful opportunity.   Before reading this book, teach your BUBs about The Four Noble Truths.

  1. Life means suffering.
  2. The cause of suffering is attachment.
  3. The end of suffering is attainable.
  4. There is a path to the end of suffering.

Ask your children what they think this means.  Listen patiently for their answers.  Then help them correctly interpret the truths.

The first is pretty clear.  Life is synonymous with suffering.  Suffering is dis-ease, it’s imperfection, it’s worry.

The second truth tells us that attachment is the cause of suffering.  Be them relationships or objects or ideals, we hold on to these things so tightly that we become frustrated (we suffer) when we cannot control them, when we lose them or when they change.

The third noble truth gives us hope that we can end suffering through dispassion.  By letting go, we can find peace.

The fourth truth shows us the path to the end of suffering via an eight-fold path of balance and focus.  Some Buddhist practitioners believe that it takes many lifetimes to end a soul’s suffering.  Others, such as Zen Buddhists, believe that a person can achieve enlightenment during any given lifetime.

Talk through all of this with your kids.  Ask them what they’re attached to and how this makes them feel.  Remind them that it’s okay to love with all their hearts, but truly loving something or someone means letting go.   Ask them if there’s ever been a time in their lives when it was hard to let go of something or someone special.  Or if they have ever had a hard time letting go of a feeling.  Anger?  Worry?  Excitement?

Now start the book!

While reading to my kids, PG, my rising 2nd grader, surprised me when she interrupted midway through the book, “The king is doing the third noble thingy.  He’s ending his suffering by giving away his treasure.”   I was thrilled that the lesson stuck!  And she was able to apply it in context!  So, while reading, encourage your BUBs to listen carefully for opportunities to apply the noble truths.  If they miss something, put the book down and ask them if this part of the story reminds them of the lesson you taught them…  Buddha Magic!

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

p.s.

Please share this with your favorite BUB!  Call her up and say this, “Hi BUB, I think you might like this new blog called BUB.  Check it out!”