Review: Kiki’s Delivery Service

“After exchanging goodbye after goodbye, Kiki hung her radio from the front of her broom, sat Jiji on the back, and jumped on.” page 23

Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono, translated by Emily Balistrieri, illustrated by Yuta Onoda.
Delacorte Press, Penguin Random House, New York, 2020.
MG fantasy, 196 pages.
Lexile: 670L .
AR Level: 5.1 (worth 7.0 points) .
*at the time of this writing, the AR page included both the 2003 and 2020 translations although they are substantially different, so it may change.
NOTE: Reviewing the 2020 translation of a Japanese novel.

Kiki is a young girl coming of age – the only child of a witch and a human folklorist. She’s decided to follow her mother’s traditions and become a witch herself, which means leaving her parents for a witchless town at 13.

Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono, 2020 edition illustrated by Yuta Onoda and translated from Japanese by Emily Balistieri.

This book is the story of Kiki’s first year and reads almost like interconnected short stories. Most chapters are episodic and self-contained, although they do all build to a final end. I haven’t yet watched the popular animated film of the same title. While the two bear many elements in common, reviews indicate that the movie has significant differences from the book (like many Miyazaki films), so I’ve waited to see the animated version.

Although this story is about a girl going from 12 to 14, it’s incredibly wholesome and would make a lovely family read-aloud. In Kiki’s world, witches and humans live alongside one another peacefully and share similar concerns. Kiki quietly refuses to do anything against her morals, but also isn’t perfect – snooping in a package when her curiosity overcomes her, interrupting an old lady who speaks slowly, and speaking sharply to irritating customers. Kadono balances on a fine line between innocence and realism without ever reminding the reader of this impressive tightrope act.

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