Lalani of the Distant Sea
Author: Erin Entrada Kelly
Release Date: January 2020
RRP: $14.99 (PB)
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Lalani lives with her mother, stepfather and stepbrother on the island of Sanlagita, whose residents are suffering from drought. The story follows Lalani’s quest to save her mother and bring fortune to her island as she journeys to the mythical western mountain Isa where no sailor in their village has returned from, including her own father.
Review: Lalani of The Distant Sea is a vibrant fable inspired by Filipino folklore. Lalani’s character is a highlight of the book: she shows resilience, bravery and hope, even when faced with punishment and scorn from the superstitious members of her village. In interspersing chapters, the omniscient narrator challenges the reader with a second-person account (‘Imagine you are a…’) which introduces mythical creatures and characters to the tale and sets a measured pace to the narrative. The story doesn’t follow the typical structure: the conflict occurs early and continues far into the story; the ending is abrupt and doesn’t give you the satisfaction of a drawn-out resolution, but the heart of the book is in its world-building and characters and this will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading it.
Recommended Age: Ages 10+
Favourite Quote: ‘Imagine you are a ghost. You have no today. You have no tomorrow. You have only yesterday. And many yesterdays ago, you were a girl-flesh and blood, walking the earth, full of wishes and dreams, just like anyone.’
Themes: Adventure, folklore, family, death, grief, monsters, moral lessons, patriarchy, social hierarchy,
Highlights: The second-person chapters and accompanied illustrations.