Make way for Kiki!
A beloved children’s classic in Japan ever since it was originally published in 1985, Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono has been out of print in English translation for over a decade, despite its continuing fame via Hayao Miyazaki’s animated adaptation. And adaptation it is: there are significant differences between the book and the movie. But both are wonderful, thanks to the author’s original vision.
Anglophones who have only seen the film will soon be able to find out more about Kiki’s gentle, timeless tale—no matter whether they’re the target age (middle grade readers ages 8-12) or older. On July 7, Delacorte Books for Young Readers will release Kiki’s Delivery Service in a new translation by Emily Balistrieri. The release was undoubtedly prompted by author Kadono winning the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award in Writing in 2018, a major accolade that is given for lifetime achievement over a body of works. Indeed, Kiki’s Delivery Service is the first in a series, although its five sequels have never been translated into English. I, for one, hope that this translation is so successful that the rest of the series makes its way into English… and soon!
Kadono’s sweet coming-of-age fantasy tells the story of almost-13-year-old Kiki on the eve of her birthday, when she will follow the witch’s tradition of leaving home and finding a new town to learn her trade in for a year. Accompanied by her black cat, Jiji, Kiki doesn’t have much magic, but she is enthusiastic, kind, and determined. Her world is rosy-colored and she lives in the recent past. As a result, even her misadventures aren’t terrifying. Initially greeted with suspicion in the seaside town she chooses, Kiki slowly gains the trust of her new neighbors. As she grows into a greater understanding of herself and her abilities, she begins to earn a living, learns to stand on her own two feet, and makes new friends.
In the preface, author Kadono tells readers that the book was inspired by a picture her 12-year-old daughter drew of a witch “flying through the sky, listening to a radio. Musical notes danced around her.” The author then writes:
As I wrote and revised, wrote and revised, I discovered I loved writing… And I decided that, if nothing else, I would continue writing as long as I live. I’ll never forget the peace of mind I felt at that moment—I sensed the magic inside myself. I’ve come to believe that everyone has some type of magic inside them. If a person can find their magic and lovingly cultivate it, they’ll truly feel alive every day.
There is magic inside each and everyone one of you, too—I believe that.
This boundless faith in human goodness and an optimistic view of human potential imbue Kadono’s writing in a beautiful way, as she shares Kiki’s coming-of-age year with her delighted readers. Starting July 7, you, too, can be one of them.
Written by Eiko Kadono and illustrated by Yuta Onoda
Translated from the Japanese by Emily Balistrieri
2020, Delacorte Books for Young Children
Awards: 1985 IBBY Honor List; 1985 Noma Prize for Children’s Literature
Award-winning opera singer Nanette McGuinness is the translator of over 50 books and graphic novels for children and adults from French, Italian, and German into English, including the well-known Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novels. Two of her latest translations, Luisa: Now and Then (Humanoids, 2018) and California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas (First Second, 2017) were chosen for YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens; Luisa: Now and Then was also a 2019 Stonewall Honor Book. Her most recent translations are Little Josephine: Memory in Pieces (Life Drawn, 2020), Super Sisters (Papercutz, 2020), and Undead Messiah #3 (TOKYPOP, 2020).