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Takeshita Demons Paperback – 3 Jun 2010
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This year the inaugural 'Diverse Voices' award was announced. The award was a joint initiative by Frances Lincoln and Seven Stories, the Centre for the Children's Book, and was aimed at recognising a manuscript that 'celebrates diversity in its widest possible sense'. Winner Christy Burne's Takeshita Demons does this admirably. (Jake Hope Bookseller)
Monsters new to the West are introduced in Cristy Burne's Takeshita Demons, the winner of a Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices award, and illustrated in manga style by Siku. It is a pacy horror adventure in which a Japanese girl brings yokai (evil spirits) into an English school, and battles them with her friend in order to save her baby brother. Things get chilling when a supply teacher turns out to be a nukekubi (a child-eating spirit), whose head flies off. Fortunately, there are protective spirits, too. (Sunday Times)
I read Takeshita Demons in a few gulps. My first impressions were: "wow, this is pretty damn good" and then "holy smokes, this is actually quite scary" and then "I love kick ass girls!"… Cristy Burne has this magical way of writing where with the slightest bit of explanation you completely suspend your disbelief and can totally believe that these monsters are hunting the Takeshita kids… Takeshita Demons is a spooky story, mild on horror with no gore, for those readers who like to be thrilled but not be mindlessly scared. It also asks to be read out loud to a class or at bed time, if your young folk is tough enough! (myfavouritebooks)
An extremely fast, action-packed story. 'Takeshita Demons' is most definitely NOT for the faint hearted. Ultimately this story presents a fascinating insight into the wworld of Japanese culture. Burne's extensive use of dialogue helps the reader to formulate vivid images of each spooky demon, whilst maintaining a fast-paced adventure story. Similarly, Burne's first-hand informed knowledge of Japanese folklore is both easy-reading and surprisingly engaging. This is unquestionably a super book for encouraging diversity and promoting multicultural awareness within schools. (School Librarian)
About the Author
Cristy Burne has joint New Zealand and Australian citizenship, has travelled widely and lived for several years in Japan as a teacher and editor. It was during this time that she became fascinated with Japanese folklore and the supernatural yokai - demons - which are very much a part of Japanese culture, but little known outside Japan. She won the Voices on the Coast Youth Literature Award for emerging writers, in Queensland, Australia, but Takeshita Demons was her first published book. Cristy and her family live in Perth, Australia.
To find out more about Cristy Burne and for downloads and resources click here
SIKU is a well-known illustrator for comic books and graphic novels, working for the major companies in the field, including 2000AD Magazine and Marvel Comics. His best-known book is The Manga Bible. Siku lives and works in London and Essex.
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I won't give away too much of the plot, but suffice it to say this book fairly rattles along! Cristy Burne shows an excellent grasp of pace and a deep and respectful knowledge of Japanese demons from her time in the country. This book has enthralled all the family from my 9 year old daughter to me! Cristy Burne is definitely a talent to watch!
The Japanese mythology is played very strongly in the setting, with traditions for dealing with spirits represented in a way somewhat reminiscent of the spirits in Spirited Away.
The plot is fairly simple, although the main characters assumptions aren't always right, so there's some slight twists. It's also quite short, but both of these would be relatively expected given that this is intended as a children's book.
All in all, it's a good children's 'ghostly' story which has a different feel from western ghost stories.
It's written in the first person and is the tale of Miku, a Japanese girl who's family live in London. When they lived in Japan her grandmother told her many stories about demons and ghosts and their house had a ghost that protected it.
Now they've moved to London they would have thought they'd left that all behind.
But one day at school there's a new teacher who's also from Japan and who seems to know more about Miku than possible. The weather is going crazy. And there's a strange sound at the front door.
Miku and her friend Cait have demons to fight. And the fate of her brother is at stake.
This runs for 128 pages and is divided into fourteen chapters. The print is large and clear as is the prose.
Miku is a pretty appealing character being rather smart and level headed and more open minded than her parents, and the same goes for her friend Cait. There are some good creepy moments and the whole thing manages to create very well the idea of fantastical things happening in present day london unnoticed by all but a few.
And the things that happen to Miku's school will definitely appeal to young readers. And all the details of Miku's home culture are pretty interesting.
The main resolution to the plot doesn't come about from anything that Miku does, but since this reads like the set up for a series that's not too much of a problem. The book is complete in itself but it sets up possible future adventures for the main characters as well. On the basis of this they should be worth a look.
As both of my daughters are half Japanese I thought this was a perfect book for them. As it turned out I was only half correct - my younger daughter (just turned seven) tended to fall asleep every night as I read a few chapters, and I have the impression that she's not mad keen on it. Her ten-year-old sister, however, liked it a lot and listened to every single word. She clearly liked it.
Having read the whole book out loud, I'm therefore just as familiar with it. Personally I think it's best suited to female readers, the whole story being told in the first-person from a young girl's point of view and with most of the characters - good and bad - being of the same gender. I also think that it's suited to a rather narrow age-band; perhaps 8 to 12 or thereabouts.
The concept of mixing Japanese spiritual beings from that country's ancient folklore with surburban British life is an odd one that is only partially successful, but probably a criticism only an adult would be likely to make. Nevertheless, the mysticism of such exotic beings seems somewhat out of place and I'm not convinced that the marriage works. I would have preferred it if the story had taken place in Japan, feeling that if would have offered more in terms of authenticity and credibility. I must defer to my elder daughter, however, who in truth is the more valid critic in this case, and she certainly enjoyed it. If the star-rating was more adherent to my own personal rating I would give it three, as it's a little above average and 'quite good', but that would relegate it to the negative side of the critical divide and it doesn't deserve that so I've given it four. All credit to the author, whose first published novel this is, she has a good understanding of the way girls of this age group think and talk, and it's a promising sign for her future career as a children's writer.
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