Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly
***Review by Linz. Thanks to ALA and Greenwillow Books/Harper Collins for the ARC! This book is slated for publication Sept. 3, and you get a copy here (or hopefully your local indie bookstore!)***
What it’s about (from Goodreads):
“There are stories of extraordinary children who are chosen from birth to complete great quests and conquer evil villains.
This is no such story.
Sometimes, you are an ordinary child.
Sometimes, you have to choose yourself.
This is the story of Lalani Sarita, a twelve-year-old girl who lives on the island of Sanlagita in the shadow of a vengeful mountain. When she makes a fateful wish that endangers her already-vulnerable village, she sets out across the distant sea in search of life’s good fortunes. Grown men have died making the same journey. What hope does an ordinary girl have?
Inspired by Filipino folklore, Lalani of the Distant Sea introduces readers to a landscape of magical creatures, such as Bai-Vinca, the enormous birdwoman; Ditasa Ulod, part woman, part eel; the mindoren, a race of creatures modeled after the water buffalo; and the whenbo — trees that eat the souls of the dead.”
What I drank: Look I feel real weird about drunk reviewing a children’s book, so this was written while drinking coffee and avoiding work.
To quote Hamilton, “How lucky we are to be alive right now.” Books with characters of my ethnicity didn’t exist when I was growing up, but they do for my little cousins, my older cousins’ kids, my nephews and niece. This is what I had to remind myself of as I handed off my precious ARC to a trio of middle-grade cousins.
So, first of all, Filipino characters in fantasy version of the Philippines. Loving it. Second, great teen characters for our middle-grade readers who learn the many ways to find strength. Loving it. Third, NON-EUROCENTRIC FOLKLORE woven into the story effectively, and not just to include mythological characters. LOVING IT. (And even if you don’t read this book, the Aswang Project is a great resource for Filipinio folklore.) Fourth, great world-building, great descriptive language, and oh my god a little scary? Not like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark scary, but pretty scary.
I do wish the male secondary characters’ storylines had gotten a little more plot and character development (something I literally never thought I would say in my lifetime), but I also recognize I’m not the target audience for this book.
STRONGLY recommend for any and all 12-year-olds in your life. KEEP THE DIVERSE BOOKS COMING.
What I gave it: 4 stars
What I would pair it with: Ugh so awkward. What do kids drink now, lemonade? (I did read this while drinking the Trader Joe’s ginger-lemon seltzers and it was fab.)