Sunday, October 17, 2010

Takeshita Demons, by Cristy Burne - exciting fantasy with Japanese mythology (ages 9 - 12)

I'm always looking out for books that bring in mythology or settings from other cultures, but that are exciting and fun to read. The Percy Jackson series grabs kids because it's exciting and fun, but it fascinates them because it introduces them to a whole world of Greek mythology. Takeshita Demons is an exciting adventure story that introduces children to Japanese spirits and demons.
Takeshita Demons
by Cristy Burne
illustrated by Siku
London: Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2010
ages 9 – 12
available on Amazon and at your local library
Takeshita DemonsThis exciting adventure features Japanese supernatural demons – yokai – and a young girl’s fight to protect her younger brother. Yokai are well known in Japan and still an important part of Japanese folklore, but they are little known outside of Japan. Twelve-year-old Miku Takeshita has recently moved to London, but she misses her grandmother terribly. In Japan, her grandmother taught her about the secrets of the spirit world, including Zashiko, the child-ghost who protected them from hostile spirits and demons. But Miku’s grandmother has died and it is up to Miku to remember these traditions and secrets. Every day, Miku tries to remember to check that the cedar leave is still placed above the door to protect her family from evil spirits. But her mother thinks this is all nonsense.

One winter day, Miku arrives at school to find that they have a substitute teacher who turns out to be an evil, child-eating nukekubi demon. That night, strange events start happening and Miku’s little brother disappears while she is watching over him. A breathless adventure follows, with Miku and her friend Cait battling the nukekubi, with her flying head and supernatural powers.

This is a fast-paced story that will appeal to readers who are looking for a scary story with a Japanese Manga twist. It is smaller in scale than the Percy Jackson series; Takeshita Demons is just under 150 pages long, while Rick Riordan's novels regularly weigh in at 400 pages plus. I think this is a huge advantage for many readers. I would gladly hand this to a 4th grader, or perhaps even a 3rd grader who likes action and is okay with some scary confrontations.A little brother is kidnapped and threatened by the demon, but no harm comes to him.

Takeshita Demons was original published in the UK, and won the inaugural The Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Childrens Book Award for diversity in children's fiction, for a middle grade novel by a previously unpublished author. Author Cristy Burnes spent many years in Japan and became fascinated with folklore about the yokai, Japanese spirits and demons.

For another review, check out the always-excellent Paper Tigers. "Cristy Burne has created a fast-paced story full of suspense that is further intensified by Miku's matter-of-fact narration.  Cait’s incredulity at Miku’s initial explanations, and then her own involvement in subsequent events allow Western readers to be pulled into the Japanese spirit world that Miku so takes for granted."

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher. If you make a purchase on Amazon using the links on this page, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support!


  1. Thanks for this review. This looks like a great series. I love the cover

  2. Mary do you have this book in your school library? If so, what is the teacher response to this book? I'm interested in purchasing it for my school book room, but unsure if teachers would shy away from it. Also would you place it in the folktales section?

    Thanks for your work!

  3. Hi Heather,

    I do have this in my school library, but it's just been added this week! It went out the first day I showed it to students, to a 5th grader who loves fantasy. The fantasy is not really different from many fantasies that have supernatural creatures. I do not anticipate concern from teachers in 4th and 5th grades.

    I would put it in fiction, since it is an original work of fiction that incorporates folklore - much like the Percy Jackson stories do.

    Good luck -

    Mary Ann