When the sea turned to silver and the cold chilled the light of the sun, Pinmei knew the Black Tortoise of Winter had arrived with his usual calmness.
Grace Lin proves once again that she is a masterful storyteller. Like her two previous books, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, and Starry River of the Sky, When the Sea Turned To Silver celebrates the act of telling stories, and is filled with small heroes (children) who are able to accomplish great things. All in the face of danger!
Pinmei lives with her grandmother Amah very high up in the mountains. Amah embroiders silks by day and tells her granddaughter, and the villagers, stories by night. There is talk of the Tiger Emperor coming to their village to look for a Luminous Stone that Lights the Night. Nobody has heard of such a thing.
“Amah, these stories aren’t real, are they?” Pinmei asked. “Was there really a tortoise or a Nuwa?”
Amah spooned the rice from the pot. She handed Pinmei her plain bowl, the cooked grains shining like a mound of pearls against the dark pottery.
“They say when you see a rainbow in the sky, you are seeing Nuwa and the colored stones she put there,” Amah said. She gave Pinmei a smile, her face wrinkling like the pit of a peach. “Whether you believe that or any of the things I tell you is up to you.”
But when the Emperor’s soldiers arrive in the middle of the night to take Amah, Pinmei must hide in an old gang, or large clay pot that used to hold wine. Pinmei holds her breath, terrified out of her wits, wondering why in the world the Emperor himself would show up to kidnap her grandmother!
Along with Yishan, the boy who lives higher up the mountain, timid and shy Pinmei must find the courage within her to rescue her grandmother.
Lin’s own gorgeous illustrations can be found inside the book, where the stories are illustrated in jewel-like tones. Set in a re-imagined Ancient China, ancient Chinese folklore is an evident influence in Lin’s stories. When the Sea Turned To Silver is beautifully written and I think that children ages 8-12 will relate to Pinmei and Yishan, and will enjoy accompanying the two children on their journey to rescue Amah.
When the Sea Turned to Silver was a National Book Finalist for 2016. Congrats to Grace Lin!