The Dreamweavers by G. Z. Schmidt. Holiday House, 2021. 9780823444236
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4.5
What did you like about the book? Chinese folklore and the mystery of dreams combine in this wonderful fantasy for middle grade readers. Mei and Yun are twins who live with their Grandpa. When he is imprisoned for allegedly poisoning the emperor’s son, the twins leave their village in search of their parents, the only ones who could help free him. They are aided by the Jade Rabbit, a magical being who helps them find the cursed City of Ashes, where their parents disappeared years before. There the twins meet the Lotus, the spirit whose anger and grief caused the curse, which is beginning to spread throughout the land. Mei and Yun make a deal with the Lotus, who promises to lift the curse in exchange for a mission which the twins must complete. They fly to the Imperial City on a cloud (pictured on the wonderful book cover) and must use their wits as well as their newly found ability as dreamweavers to complete the mission.
The author combines folklore, history, magic and humor in this deeply satisfying fantasy. The setting is southern China during the Ming Dynasty, 1500s, AD. Readers get to experience life in the Imperial Palace, including a matter of fact description of foot binding. It’s fun to read how Mei and Yun talk their way into jobs in the palace. Fans of Chinese folklore will recognize the Jade Rabbit, who is a mysterious but benevolent character. The twins’ ability to meet in dreams is so appealing and clever, and I think kids will love this idea. The culminating scene is like the Great Ming Dynasty Baking Show – the twins must prepare mooncakes for the emperor, using the good dreams they gathered to counteract the bad dreams which threatened to poison the land.
Anything you didn’t like about it? No
To whom would you recommend this book? For middle grade readers who loved Grace Lin’s middle grade fantasies, and anyone who loved folkloric fantasy.
Who should buy this book? Elementary and middle school and public libraries
Where would you shelve it ? Fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Near the top
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA
Date of review: December 2, 2021