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The Night Parade

Review

The Night Parade

In the small towns and villages outside of Tokyo, religious and cultural customs help order time, foster identity and create balance and harmony in the world. But none of that matters to 13-year-old Saki Yamamoto, who is more concerned about her cell phone connection. In THE NIGHT PARADE by Kathryn Tanquary, Saki goes on a fantastical three night adventure that will force her to re-think her priorities and adjust her attitude even as she races to overturn the curse she has called down upon herself.

Saki is self-absorbed and grumpy with little patience for her parents and younger brother. Spending her school break in the rural village where her father grew up instead of with her friends back in Tokyo makes her angry and frustrated. She has no interest in participating in the Obon Festival, a time to remember and honor ancestors, even if it means bringing joy and comfort to her widowed grandmother and celebrating the memory of her grandfather who had been the priest in charge of the local shrine.

Tanquary excels at creating a world where both Japanese beliefs and cosmic mythology are real and co-exist.

Soon after arriving in the village, Saki runs into some local kids who challenge her to enter the shrine at night and ring the sacred bell. That transgression coupled with her refusal to correctly conduct the Obon rituals brings a deadly curse down on Saki. She wakes up in the middle of the night, called outside and into the Night Parade. It is only with the Night Parade that Saki can find the power to lift the curse. Saki is guided on three successive nights by three strange and enigmatic guides: a trickster Fox, a commanding Tengu and a flatulent Tanuki. On each night, Saki travels with the Parade, hoping to find someone, or something, to help her lift the curse. From living umbrellas to a swarming insect army, from magic glass marbles to a friendly filth licker, Saki meets many creatures both whimsical and powerful. She has much to learn from the ogres and others she meets but, most importantly, Saki comes to understand how her negative thoughts and actions in this world affect the spiritual world that means so much to her community, her family and the legacy of her beloved grandfather.

Tanquary packs a lot into THE NIGHT PARADE. Saki is dealing with her family’s expectations and her desire to have freedom from them. She learns that respect for traditions and honoring family and culture are valuable, and she learns about friendship, too. Saki is not always likeable and, throughout the story, remains reluctant to right the wrongs she has caused. She comes across as spoiled and disrespectful and she learns lessons late and without much introspection. Still, Tanquary excels at creating a world where both Japanese beliefs and cosmic mythology are real and co-exist. The Night Parade itself is creepy and interesting and Tanquary missed an opportunity to explore it and its power in more depth.

Overall, THE NIGHT PARADE mostly overcomes the problems with its prickly protagonist with an atmospheric tale based on ancient Japanese culture through the eyes of a thoroughly modern girl. 

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 4, 2016

The Night Parade
by Kathryn Tanquary