Shuna’s Journey

First Second. Nov. 2022. 160p. tr. from Japanese by Alex Dudok de Wit . Tr $27.99. ISBN 9781250846525.
Gr 6 Up–Shuna is a prince who lives in a poor land where it is difficult for anything to grow. When a dying traveler tells Shuna about a golden grain that grows somewhere in the west, it awakens his desire to try to find this grain and save his people. Most of this book is Shuna’s journey, as he explores unfamiliar landscapes that at first contain empty buildings and looming statues, and later signs of a dystopian civilization. Since Miyazaki is primarily known for his films, it isn’t surprising that this book has a sweeping, cinematic quality. Sometimes the world is enchanting, and sometimes it’s violent and dangerous. There are plenty of amazing and surreal landscapes, and the world is filled with fantastic beasts of all shapes and sizes, which make for a visually stunning book. Shuna seems to be a sheltered innocent at first, but he is also trained to survive, and he uses his weapons (including bullets that he made himself) to fight attackers and slave traders. Readers will become emotionally invested in what happens to Shuna, hoping that he will ultimately defeat his enemies, meet allies that he can trust, and find the grain that can change the future of his people. This book was published decades ago in Japanese, but is now finally published in English, and it will inspire some long-overdue appreciation.
VERDICT For Miyazaki fans, as well as any readers who would enjoy fantastic stories that unfold in surprising ways.

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