While it took some time to get used to the narrator’s voice, The Crystal Ribbon was a charming historical fiction novel, only made richer by the resilience and bravery of its main character, Li Jing.
It is an exciting time for Jing, as her father finally allows her to witness the tea drying process. Little does she know that this moment will be bittersweet. It will be one of her last moments before she is sold as a bride to the Koh family. Her dowry will be used to save the family’s fortune. When she thinks it can’t get any worse than being a nursemaid to her three year old husband, she is sold again. However, Jing is now ready to take destiny into her own hands with the help of a magical spider and her own courage. Jing is going back home.
With audiobooks, it is important that you enjoy the narration. It took me a little while to get used to Nancy Wu’s voice, as it was a little higher pitched than I expected. However, it grew on me and I quickly came to love the story.
Jing was a fabulous character, spirited and compassionate. She is good with children and incredibly loyal. Throughout the story we witness her journey, not only across medieval China, but also within herself. In the beginning, we are struck by the cruelty of her situation, constantly being sold with no regards to her feelings. She is lost and confused by the circumstances of the world that would force her father into selling her. It seems time and time again there are those who wish to hurt her, or be mean to her, and Jing is always optimistic and fierce. Resigned not to give them the satisfaction of seeing her heart, Jing always puts on a stoic face.
Jing comes into contact with spirits and folklore of the towns around her on her journeys. This was one of my favorite aspects, as it truly felt like I was learning something as well. As Jing travels onwards, she begins to see the larger picture, to examine the forces of destiny and the price of sacrifice to all involved – those being sacrificed and those left behind. While you could easily just enjoy the story and walk away, this book offers so much more as it has multiple incidents which examine the ‘price’ of children, among other themes.
While the ending felt a little rushed, it was extremely satisfying. Jing was dealt some awful and painful incidents, she does not let that stop her, instead making the best of her situation and finding the corners of happiness. Her quest for her spiritual home is something we can all identify with. The author’s note is especially interesting, as is her explanation of the motivation behind the book. It makes you appreciate the entire story a little more.
This middle grade book is a true gem, not only educational, but has a protagonist that inspires you at any age. It has a Valley of Amazement (Amy Tan) sort of vibe, except for a much younger audience. Whimsical and lovely, it celebrates spirit, our inner instinct, and the meaning of family.
Thanks to Laura from Green Tea and Paperbacks for giving me this audiobook.
What’s your favorite middle grade book?
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