Temple Alley Summer by Sachiko Kashiwaba, illustrated by Miho Satake, translated by Avery Fischer Udagawa (9781632063038)
When Kazu sees a strange girl leaving his house in the middle of the night wearing a white kimono, he wonders about it. But things are even stranger at school, when he is the only person who seems not to know Akari, the girl who exited his house that night. Everyone else seems to have known her for years and years. When Kazu follows Akari home, he realizes that her mother is invisible! As Kazu explores the history of his Kimyo Temple neighborhood, which doesn’t have a temple, he finds himself angering some of the older people in his community. Putting the pieces together, Kazu discovers that a small Buddha statue from his family’s home has the power to restore dead people to life! After getting to know Akari and her mother from her previous life, Kazu has a new quest, to give Akari the chance to read the ending of an unfinished story from decades ago. It may be the key to keeping Akari alive this time around and also the answer to the questions about Kazu’s own family and community.
Written by one of Japan’s most well-known and prolific children’s and YA fantasy authors, this book is a marvel. Kashiwaba weaves together multiple layers to create a book that is satisfying and full of magic. There is Kazu’s own life, going to school and having friends, going to the beach and enjoying his summer. There is the mystery of Akari with her empty house and invisible mother. There is the story of Kazu’s own family and the missing temple in his neighborhood to explore. Then the story that Akari loved in her previous life is shared on the pages, giving readers a witch-filled and magical story that is full of danger, cold and heroes. The last is to find the author herself and see if they can get the story finished. By that point, the reader is hoping that they can, because you simply must know how it ends!
Beautifully, Kashiwaba changes the style of her writing from Kazu’s story to the fantasy tale embedded in the novel. Kazu’s story is more modern with shorter lines and more exclamations. The lines lengthen in the witch’s story, becoming more storytelling. It’s very cleverly done. The characters are marvelous from Kazu himself at the heart of this unique zombie story to Akari who is learning to live a new life and loving every moment to the friends, parents and newly met people that Kazu meets along the way.
Unique, fascinating and completely wonderful, this Japanese import is a delight. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from library copy.