Middle School Monday – The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary
Saki’s boring summer might be her last when a Japanese curse casts her into the Night Parade.
Thirteen-year-old Saki Yamamoto wants to spend her summer vacation anywhere but at her grandmother’s old house in the Japanese countryside, where the phone signal is bad and there’s nothing to do all day. In an attempt to impress the local kids in the family graveyard, Saki unintentionally invokes a death curse. Now, the most terrible summer of her life could be her last.
In order to remove the curse, Saki must enter the dangerous spirit world of the Night Parade. Over the course of three nights, three different guides assign mysterious and harrowing challenges that give Saki the chance to set herself free. But she better be careful, or the death curse will catch up with her…
Saki begins her journey as a largely unsympathetic but entirely relatable young Japanese teenager. Obsessed with keeping in touch with her friends in Tokyo by text while isolated in the remote village where her father was raised and her grandmother still lives, she goes to great lengths to access a phone signal. This puts her in the path of the manipulative popular crowd of teens, who seem remarkably similar to the ‘friends’ Saki is trying to keep in touch with in Tokyo. Saki seems caught in the trap of trying to please the unkind popular kids in order to either fit in with them or at least not become a target of their machinations. This is a common dilemma amongst middle schoolers. The desperate desire to fit in and be accepted can lead to all sorts of negative behavior patterns. Saki realistically and relatably embodies this dilemma.
To remove the death curse she has brought on her household, Saki must enter the Night Parade. Based on the Japanese legend of Hyakki Yagyo, or the Night Parade of One Hundred Demons, Saki must navigate the dangers of three nights of the Night Parade in order to seek the removal of the curse. The lessons she learns about herself, others, honoring your culture, and what true friendship means parallel the lessons she is learning during the day in her grandmother’s village.
The vivid imagery of the creatures and characters Saki encounters during the Night Parade is strongly reminiscent of the Hayao Miyazaki films I’ve seen, and I believe it would greatly appeal to middle school students who enjoy them. Additionally, I think the juxtaposition of the technology and modern culture obsessed Saki with the traditional legend of the Night Parade offer an accessible avenue for readers not familiar with the culture to enter and enjoy it. I would strongly recommend this as a purchase for all collections serving 10 to 13 year olds.
Filed under: Middle School Monday
About Robin Willis
After working in middle school libraries for over 20 years, Robin Willis now works in a public library system in Maryland.
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