Review: The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary

Title: The Night Parade
Author: Kathryn Tanquary
Publication Date: January 5th, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Genre: Middle Grade
Pages: 320
ISBN: 1492623245
Source: ARC from Publisher

Synopsis (from Publisher):
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 in exciting Tokyo for the antiquated rituals and bad cell reception of her grandmother’s remote mountain 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 goodbye to the world of the living forever.

Praise for The Night Parade...

“Wonder and imagination abound in Tanquary’s debut, a fantasy set in a contemporary Japanese mountain village; filled with respect and admiration for cultural tradition, it evokes both Grimm’s fairy tales and Miyazaki’s films...Vivid details and realistic situations ensure accessibility, and subtle teaching moments are wrapped in wide-eyed enchantment.” –Publishers Weekly STARRED Review

“An entertaining mix of Japanese folklore and teen angst” –School Library Journal

“Highly imaginative, beautifully written and what a wonderful book that talks about becoming true to oneself. While reading this all I could picture was a Miyazaki film in my head, and it was beautiful!”--Teresa Steele, Old Firehouse Books (Fort Collins, CO)

In the dead of night, she woke to three cold fingers on her neck.
Saki blinked in the darkness. The sliding door was open to the forest. The fingers pressed against her jugular, and bright, thundering panic surged through her body.
The fingers curled down toward her throat.
She tried to open her mouth to scream, but her jaw was locked shut. Her hands groped for her phone under the futon. Before she reached it, she touched her grandfather’s worn-­out charm. The three fingers retracted, leaving her skin cold and bloodless.
“Oh good, you’re awake.” She heard her brother’s voice.
Saki flipped around. Lying on her back, she stared up into a pair of eyes.
It was not her brother.
It knelt next to her on the tatami floor, knees brushing the edge of her pillow. Her brother’s futon was empty, and the blankets were flung around the room. It may have been Jun’s body kneeling there, but whatever stared back at her was not her brother.
The clouds shifted, and light fell through the open door, burning moon-­blue on everything it touched. Her not-­brother’s eyes reflected the light like a will-­o’-­the-­wisp.
“I thought you might sleep through it.” The creature smiled. Her brother’s teeth seemed sharper than usual.
Saki touched her hand to her jaw. It unlocked. Her voice was little more than a whisper. “Sleep through what?”
It leaned over. She stared into its will-­o’-­the-­wisp’s eyes.
“The Night Parade, of course.”
With a single movement, it was standing by the crack in the door. The forest stretched on into the night.
“Get up, get up! We’re late already.”
Saki scrambled to her knees. She pulled a blanket around her shoulders and clutched her phone to her chest.
“W-­what have you done to my brother?”
It rolled her brother’s eyes around the room and licked his teeth. “Impressive, isn’t it?” It opened its arms and looked down at the body it had taken. “Of course, beautiful maidens are traditional, but we must work with what we have, no?”
Saki eyed the backpack in the corner. It was heavy enough to swing in a pinch. “If you touch me, I’ll scream.”
The creature with her brother’s body became very serious. “Oh no, that won’t do any good. They won’t hear you anyway. This is your burden, little one.” It barked out laughter, eyes wide open, reflecting the moon.
“This is crazy. Jun, if you’re playing a joke, it isn’t funny. I’m telling—­”
“Why do you refuse to believe what you observe to be true?” it asked. “I don’t know what sort of game you’re playing at, girl. You invited me here.”
Saki blinked. “What?”
It dropped on her brother’s knee beside her. “Don’t you remember? On hallowed ground, you put your hands to the summoning table. You called out our names. You rang the bell. So we came to you, as we must. Well, I came to you.”
“You’re Kokkuri-­san?”
“No and yes. I am the first of three. The others will be along later.”
“Oh yes. I’m always the first, whether I like it or not. The third you will like very much. Everyone likes him. But the second…” It covered her brother’s mouth as a malevolent glee twinkled in its eyes. “Oh my. I daresay you will not like him at all. Very…scary.” It curled and uncurled her brother’s fingers.
“No,” Saki said. “No. No, no, no, no.” She pulled the blanket over her head and rolled into a ball on the floor. “This is crazy. This is insane. This is not happening. I am asleep and having a dream. When I wake up, it will be over.”
The creature sighed. “Very well. If that is your
final decision…”
Saki waited underneath the blanket. The wind whistled through the cracks of the old house, but after more than five minutes, she heard no sounds of the stranger anywhere. Bit by bit, she peeled back the blanket and peeked over the top.
Her brother slept soundly on a mess of tousled blankets. His face squished against his pillow as he drooled a bit down the side. His eyes were closed and didn’t shine at all in the moonlight. Saki wrapped her blanket around her shoulders as she rose to shut the open door.

On the wooden walkway in full moonlight sat a fox with four tails.

Kathryn Tanquary is a graduate of Knox College with a B.A. in Creative Writing. She currently resides in Japan as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language.

If you're looking for a magical title that integrates culture and folklore, The Night Parade needs to be added to your reading list. The author, Kathryn Tanquary, currently dwells in Japan and has reflected the culture in her debut, making it a fascinating read for those unaware of just how deep Japanese folklore bridges the spirit world with the breathing world.

Saki is a 13 year old girl from Tokyo whose family is visiting her grandmother in an isolated village near the mountains to celebrate the Obon ceremony.  Saki is the epitome of preteen angst, and is too caught up in missing her advances with the popular crowd to take the ceremony very seriously. The plot initiates when Saki is to bring a living branch from a sakaki tree to light the Welcome Fire, but instead brings a dead one. She then meets some locals who bully her into taking them to the graveyard by her grandmother's house, and they summon "Kokkuri-san" through a game that is very similar to our version of the Ouija board. Needless to say, we have a recipe for disaster, and the spirit of death is welcomed to The Night Parade.

Torn between the two worlds, Saki must lift the death curse off herself before the parade is over in three days. We meet some interesting guides on the way (honestly, I expected the second one to be a little more intimidating than it turned out to be), and find that many of the stories Saki grew up hearing may not be stories after all.

The character of Saki isn't necessarily the most likable, especially in the beginning. But she did grow through the story, and I felt that I grew along with her. The plot moved at satisfactory pace, and I loved all the little side adventures that we had to go through to reach the final goal. It was like adding different seasonings to enrich the overall flavor of the plot. Tying back to some of those parts always adds extra points in my book, and Tanquary did exactly that.

The realization of the connection between the spirit and living worlds was beautiful. I felt that outside of the story, it gave me a newfound appreciation for the belief the we are interlaced and what is done in the living world carries over to the spirit world.

If you are wary of themes that carry a high level of fantasy and mysticism, then this probably isn't for you. I will also warn that there are a few parts that could be pretty scary to a child. They weren't over-the-top, but enough to make this title teeter between Middle Grade and Young Adult. Other than that, I would highly recommend this book, especially if the Japanese culture fascinates you.

The Night Parade is a fantastical and mystical work of wonder and folklore. It truly is reminiscent of  a Miyazaki film. I finished this book in just a few hours because I couldn't put it down!
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