The Night Parade
Author: Kathryn Tanguary
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc., 2016
Source: Public Library
Saki and her family are traveling from Tokyo to a remote mountain village to celebrate Obon* with their grandmother. Saki and her brother find the old traditions boring and don’t have much in common with their grandmother. During the first day, Saki decides to hang out with some of the local kids her age. As a result, Saki is tricked into desecrating a local graveyard, an act during which she accidentally invokes a death curse. Not only is she in trouble with her parents, but she’s got some bigger problems to deal with, too.
Over the next three nights, Saki will join the Night Parade, “the biggest celebration of the year…(when) spirits travel from near and far to pay homage at the shrine on the mountaintop” (pg. 71). Each night a different spirit will come to help and guide Saki as she journeys on a fantastic, dream-like quest in order to get the Midlight Prince to lift the curse. It’s not an easy task. In addition to the quirky and mischievous spirits, there are many magical creatures to contend with, some friend, some foe. The New Lord has ordered the spirits of the Night Parade to halt Saki’s progress. And, of course, Saki must make those choices which help her achieve her goal.
This story may take place in Japan, but the kids in this story – Saki, her brother, her Tokyo friends, and the kids from her grandmother’s village – could be from anywhere. While they are quite typical, they are not especially likeable. Even Saki, at first, is whiny and entitled. Her adventure with the Night Parade certainly brings growth. By the end she is a kinder, more thoughtful girl.
Though I generally enjoyed this story, my one complaint about this book is that I mostly disliked the use of vernacular. Tanguary could – and should – have dropped all the words like: “gonna,” “musta,” “outta” and “lemme.” Sometimes this type of dialogue adds to building a character. In this book it does not.
* Obon is one of the most important Japanese traditions. People believe their ancestors’ spirits come back to their homes to be reunited with family.