by Eiko Kadono
Unconditional Recommendation: Half-witch Kiki with her black cat Jiji follow witch tradition and fly off to find a new town to make home for her 13th year in this darling coming-of-age story.
I grew up loving Hayao Miyazaki’s anime film of Kiki’s Delivery Service so when I saw this beautiful cover, I had to read the original story that inspired the movie. It can be hard to read the book of a movie you love or vice versa but I am absolutely delighted with the book. There are some major differences between them, but neither detracts from the other. Both the book and the film stand on their own as great stories with lovable characters.
Half-witch Kiki never runs from a challenge. So when her thirteenth birthday arrives, she’s eager to follow a witch’s tradition: find a new town to call home for one year. Brimming with confidence, Kiki flies to the seaside village of Koriko and expects that her powers will easily bring happiness to the townspeople. but gaining the trust of the locals and finding success is trickier than expected. With her faithful, wisecracking black cat, Jiji, by her side, Kiki forges new friendships and build her inner strength, ultimately realizing that magic can be found in even the most ordinary places.
The book is adorable. Utterly darling. I laughed aloud several times because Kiki and Jiji are such fun characters with amusing banter. Each chapter is a snippet of Kiki making a life, running a business, and coming of age in a new town. The story keeps to a steady pace and is mild all the way through. I categorized it as fantasy but it’s got about as much magic as Mary Poppins.
Kiki is spunky and yet willing to learn. She’s honest and straightforward. She’s bold and quick to laugh. She has a good relationship with her parents that’s only strengthened by her time away. For example, in the beginning she doesn’t want to take her mom’s suggestions but during her time away from home she comes to appreciate her mom’s wisdom. I adore coming-of-age stories and in this one, Kiki doesn’t change or grow up in any grandiose way. The coming-of-age is much more subtle—present, but subtle. It’s average, everyday growing up. Growing up is often a process of small incremental improvements that we don’t normally notice but author Eiko Kadono captures it beautifully in the details of Kiki’s life, such as an observation here, a conversation there, taking responsibility for this and making choices about that. It’s the real stuff of growing up.
I’m keeping the review short because, well, the book is short. I highly recommend both versions of Kiki’s Delivery Service—the anime film and the book—for a lighthearted adventure about striking out on your own and growing up. It’s sunshine in a book! But that could be my nostalgia talking…happy reading!
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