‘Charming ghost story’ meets adventure novel

TEMPLE ALLEY SUMMER

By Sachiko Kashiwaba, illustrated by Miho Satake, translated by Avery Fischer Udagawa. (New York: Restless Books, 2021, 240 pp., $18, hardcover)

Walking down the back streets of the Minami Odori District, traces of a secret past come to life in “Temple Alley Summer,” a captivating modern-day mystery that is both a charming ghost story and fast-paced adventure by renowned Japanese children’s author Sachiko Kashiwaba. In the middle of the night, Kazu hears a sliding door and spies a young girl in a white kimono emerging from the altar room. Was it an apparition, a ghost or a zombie?

The girl ghost Akari appears in his class the next day and seems to be someone all of his classmates have known for some time. What is going on?

Under the guise of a summer project, Kazu meets a cast of townspeople who want to keep the town secrets under wraps, including a snazzy granny Ms. Minakami and her snooty black cat Kiriko. When he asks her about the history of Kimyoji Temple Alley, she quips, “It’s kind of creepy, isn’t it?… Kimyoji, return-to-life temple.”

When Akari realizes that Kazu can see past the facade, she begins to confide in him. Every experience is new and exciting for Akari as her past life ended tragically at a young age. Her one desire from her past is to find out what happened in “The Moon is on the Left,” a series she read in a magazine in 1942. Author Kashiwaba offers another layer of intrigue for the readers as they delve into this fantastic tale of a witch, a prince and a pearl. The tenacious Kazu keeps us entertained with his rambunctious attitude and determination to set things right, to not lose the mysteries of the past and fully embrace life for the living.

Kashiwaba is a prolific writer of children’s and young adult fantasy whose career spans more than four decades. Her works have garnered the prestigious Sankei, Shogakukan and Noma children’s literature awards, and her novel “The Marvelous Village Veiled in Mist” influenced Hayao Miyazaki’s film “Spirited Away.” The book includes illustrations by Miho Satake, who is known for illustrating the classic fantasy novel “Howl’s Moving Castle” by Diana Wynne Jones, three books in the “Kiki’s Delivery Service” series by Eiko Kadono, and also illustrated the 20th anniversary Japanese editions of the “Harry Potter” series. Avery Fischer Udagawa translated the book to English.

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