Bookshelf Blurb: In this story reminiscent of Japanese anime, mean girls can be shattered if you believe in the magic of years gone by.
America’s Review: Diversity is best taught through examples of different cultures and an understanding from where they came. It is refreshing to learn what unique heritage is within the walls of our classrooms, and with an open mind and respect, teaching cultural differences can help build an understanding of one another. One way to teach diversity is selecting books with global characters. To start the new year, Kathryn Tanquary has made this possible with the depth and dimension of Japanese folklore with her book, The Night Parade.
Saki, a 13-year-old girl, is a typical middle school youth who is forced to take a family vacation to visit her aging grandmother in the mountains of Japan, where there is no cell phone service. Saki lives in Tokyo, where she enjoys big city life with her besties–going out to karaoke bars and being in the popular clique. She cannot fathom being without cell service, much less missing out on hanging with her friends in order to spend her break in some backwards, remote village without air conditioning or electricity. (I have met many middle schoolers who can totally relate to Saki.)
When Saki’s family arrives, her grandmother meets them in traditional Japanese attire, ready to start preparing for the summer festivities of Obon. Saki, bored to death, takes short cuts on the rituals and continues to sass her parents. I was laughing out loud at her antics and could just see the sassy pants she was wearing as she short-changed everyone around her. Saki doesn’t think she is being crass–as most her age don’t–but what Saki doesn’t realize is that her behavior reflects back onto herself and her family. Saki’s actions land her in the middle of the Night Parade, and she must discover how to remove the curse she has placed on herself, her family and on the mountain village.
Saki is a spoiled brat and a member of the “mean girl clan” of her middle school. Friendships at this age are complicated; it is difficult to stand up for yourself when kids can be extremely cruel. Saki encounters members of the Night Parade who assist her despite her bad attitude. Aided by these mythical creatures, Saki discovers she is more than what gossip and rumors have made her out to be. The magical entities in the story are well formed to represent more than just spirits of the netherworld; they become her friends. Thanks to these unforeseen circumstances, Saki learns to seek from within and befriend the past as it has helped shape who she is.
In the classroom: This is a wonderful book for teaching diversity in middle school. Too often students are harassed because of their differences. This is an opportunity to have students research their own background. Once Saki is confronted by a danger she has placed on her family, she learns to appreciate and respect her grandmother and the traditions of the past.
Most of your students will not know about their past or their lineage. This is a two-part assignment: Read a book and complete a written research paper. Your students can read this book as a starting place. CCSS in the middle grades wants your students to “conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.7). I liked the ability to explore different avenues as stated in this CCSS, as well as to allow students to discover from where they came.
The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky | 9781492623243 | January 5, 2016)