From School Library Journal
Grade 5–8—When Hannah's writer mother travels from Australia to Japan to do research for a new book, she takes her reluctant daughter with her. While Liana travels throughout the country, the 12-year-old stays with her mother's friends, the Maekawas. She is able to converse with the family as she spent time in Japan when she was younger and has been studying Japanese at school. Hannah is soon swept up in a mystery with her new friend, Miki Maekawa. Opening an old toy box, the family finds a riddle that appears to be an appeal for help from "the ocean boy," a lost soul seeking peace. The girls and their friend Hiro set out to solve the riddle, traveling to markets, temples, shrines, and an ancient castle and meeting people from the past who aid or hinder their quest. Following the realistic and likable characters on their journey gives insight into the beauty of Japanese culture and tradition, and the fast-paced action as the children figure out the clues will appeal to many readers.—Denise Moore, O'Gorman Junior High School, Sioux Falls, SD
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Twelve-year-old Australian Hannah has been sent to spend the winter with Japanese family friends in Kanazawa so she can improve her ability to speak the language. She and 13-year-old Miki find a written message in an old box of papers. It outlines a series of mysterious steps that both girls quickly realize they are inadvertently following, after a nighttime tour of a temple and a strange encounter with a singing monk. As readers raptly follow the deepening fantasy, they will find themselves flipping pages time after time to reread the message. Determined to fit in, Hannah makes a few humorous missteps (bowing self-consciously and smacking her head on a table that s in the way), all of which keep the tale lighthearted and make her seem endearingly real. Meehan utilizes beautifully crafted similes and metaphors as she creates a loving and detailed portrayal of Japan and its people. Told in the first person, the tale remains so grounded in reality that it never defies belief. A fine fantasy debut (first published in Australia in 2001). (author s note) (Fantasy. 10 & up) --Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review