Written by award-winning Japanese author Sachiko Kashiwaba, Temple Alley Summer* features not one but two ghost stories. The first is the outer shell in this engrossing middle-grade novel and a fully-fleshed narrative; the other is an embedded fairy-tale fantasy with intriguing connections and parallels to the first.
In the “outer” ghost story, Kazu, who is a bit of an impulsive scamp, is startled when he sees a ghost early one morning. But when the ghost, Akari, appears at Kazu’s school, no one seems surprised. Rather everyone acts as if she had always been attending! Kazu finds out that the dead can reappear when they had unresolved issues during their lifetime. Akari’s appearance has to do with a forgotten temple that was once in the alley where Kazu lives—and that seems to be linked to his family. To figure out what’s going on, he chooses neighborhood history as his summer project. While the local adults aren’t thrilled about his investigating the mysterious past, he persists, and he and Akari become good friends.
Kazu discovers that before Akari died, she had been reading a serialized fantasy in a magazine. But she never got to finish it. That serialized story is the “inner” tale.
The plucky Kazu proves equal to the challenge of unearthing the author of this years-old serial from a now-defunct magazine. With the help of both feline and human friends, Kazu completes his quest: he finds out the history of the temple and makes it possible for Akari to read the rest of her beloved story.
Imbued with a delightfully old-fashioned atmosphere, Temple Alley Summer gives its readers a wonderful glimpse of Japanese culture and traditions. And while the inner story has its scary moments, the outer one does not. The two tales form a satisfying and surprisingly deep whole that addresses questions of life, death, meaning, and friendship, all wrapped up in a supernatural summertime mystery.
Temple Alley Summer
Written by Sachiko Kashiwaba
Illustrated by Miho Satake
Translated from the Japanese by Avery Fischer Udagawa
2021 (July 6), Restless Books
More to read: an interview with translator Avery Fischer Udagawa and author Sachiko Kashiwaba; another Kashiwaba story translated by Udagawa; a profile of the translator; two more interviews with the translator, one with GLLI and another with WorldKidLit.
*Review copy of Temple Alley Summer kindly provided by the publisher.
Award-winning opera singer Nanette McGuinness is the translator of over 60 books and graphic novels for children and adults from French, Italian, German and Spanish into English, including the well-known Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novels. Two of her translations, Luisa: Now and Then and California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas were chosen for YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens; Luisa: Now and Then was also a 2019 Stonewall Honor Book. Her translations released in 2021 are For Justice: The Serge and Beate Klarsfeld Story, The Sisters #7: Lucky Brat, Chloe & Cartoon, LGBTQ YA manga, Alter Ego, and A House Without Windows.