Middle grade supernatural Japanese culture and folklore-inspired! Yeesh, that was a mouthful. But can I just say how much I adored the fact that there was a kitsune and a tanuki and a tengu in this book? Just…Japanese folklore ftw!
THE NIGHT PARADE
by Kathryn Tanquary
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, January 2016
Middle grade, supernatural, fantasy
Rated: / 5 cookies
provided by NetGalley
In the shadow of the forest, the Night Parade marches on…
The last thing Saki Yamamoto wants to do for her summer vacation is trade exciting Tokyo for the antiquated rituals and bad cell reception of her grandmother’s village. Preparing for the Obon ceremony is boring. Then the local kids take an interest in Saki and she sees an opportunity for some fun, even if it means disrespecting her family’s ancestral shrine on a malicious dare.
But as Saki rings the sacred bell, the darkness shifts. A death curse has been invoked…and Saki has three nights to undo it. With the help of three spirit guides and some unexpected friends, Saki must prove her worth or say good-bye to the world of the living forever.
I kind of found this book a cross between Spirited Away, A Christmas Carol, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (mostly because Saki encounters so many colorful characters, some of which are normally inanimate objects). But mostly it’s very much like Spirited Away. Reluctant girl travels with family into the countryside and finds herself in the spirit world of all places. There she changes the way in which she views things and begins to appreciate her family more. Maybe she changes because she has a death curse set upon herself and only with the help of three
Christmas ghosts spiritual guides (one for each night of the Night Parade) does she manage to undo the curse. Maybe she changes because, you know, characters tend to do that by the end of the story. In any case, thank goodness for character development, because otherwise I would have liked to have seen Saki eaten up by Yamanba’s no-face monster son.
I loved how the book delved quite a bit into Japanese folklore. The emergence of the spiritual guides was definitely my favorite part of the book, and often I found myself laughing at how the spirit animal interacted with Saki. I’m still not sure which of them I liked best, though the mention of the mischievous kitsune at the end kind of made me go “awwwwww” all over again. The tanuki was meant to be the most humorous of the three spirits, but I kind of liked the tengu’s dry humor much better.
“The swarm will not pay attention to you here,” the tengu replied, his voice much closer. Saki breathed a sigh of relief and turned her head to see the spirit circling the air next to her. “Of course, they will ignore you because they expect other spirits to finish you off before you reach the ground…But do not let that discourage you!”
Yeah. I must have a morbid sense of humor, because I still laugh at that quote.
A lot of scenes creeped me out, too. But I kind of expected that to happen, what with so many Japanese spirits frolicking in the pages. Some of the creatures in Miyazaki’s Spirited Away freaked me out the first time I’d watched the film. Heck, a bunch of them still freaked me out years later.
The figure in the corner shook his head again. “Mother told you. She told you. You can’t leave. You can’t get out.” He moved his entire body as he turned. He had no face–only pale, white skin where the face should have been. No crest of a nose, no hollows for eyes, not even a slit for a mouth. Only a smooth surface, like the shell of an egg. The faceless man watched her struggle with the latch. His skin was so pale, it was colorless. He rotated his entire body to face her, then stood. “You can’t leave. Not now. Not ever.”
Oh hell to the fuck no.
There were a bunch of other aspects of the story that reminded me of Miyazaki’s film, like the dirty bathhouse task and the emergence of the no-face monster.
Saki herself was a hit and miss character for me. A lot of what she does in the beginning indicated that the story was going to change her for the better. I wasn’t very keen on the fact that so many of the characters were being bullies for the sake of story, though. It was all too stereotypical. I’m all too aware that children get super mean with each other, but seriously, the fact that Saki manages to find herself smack dab in the middle of TWO DIFFERENT bullying rings was kind of obnoxious, and I hated how both situations got handled. On the other hand, I liked how Saki found her own voice, enough that she manages to stand up to both her city bullies and her country bullies. To be honest, I wished she’d sent her spirit friends after them, but that’s just wishful, vengeful thinking, lol!
On another note, this book got me HUNGRY for udon.
On the counter in front of her seat, which had been empty only moments before, was a bowl of thick, doughy udon noodles topped with lush green onions and fluffy fried tofu skins. A pair of wooden chopsticks rested near her hand. The fox began slurping up her own bowl of noodles with a note of satisfaction. Suddenly the question of how the food had gotten there seemed much less important.
So I opted to make myself ramen. ‘Cause that was clearly what was handy around the house at the time…
Don’t worry. I managed to rope a friend with me to get some good old fashioned Japanese lunch specials at a local tea place. Omnomnom!
3.5 out of 5 stars!