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Lalani of the Distant Sea

Book review by
Amanda Nojadera, Common Sense Media
Lalani of the Distant Sea Book Poster Image
Girl goes on epic quest in Filipino folklore-inspired tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers will learn about Filipino folklore.

Positive Messages

Perseverance, courage, compassion, self-reliance, and friendship are important themes. You can overcome your fears and find opportunities to be courageous. Celebrate every part of you and don't seek approval from those who don't accept you. Sometimes you'll feel pain and it will seem like nothing is going your way, but you'll overcome obstacles and be OK. If you want to change the world, you have to forge your own path and do things differently. Good will always conquer evil.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lalani is kind, loyal, and brave. She doesn't give up no matter how many times she has to battle creatures trying to stop her. Veyda is smart, compassionate, and nurturing. She dispenses medicine in secret because only the most powerful man in the village is supposed to heal the sick. Hetsbi starts off cowardly but he learns to embrace courage and stand up to his bullies.

Violence

Sensitive readers might be frightened by some of the fantastical yet dangerous creatures that try to kill Lalani on her journey to Isa. Characters tell stories of Mount Kahna's wrath and the evil mountain beast on Sanlagita. Lalani meets a strange creature on Mount Kahna who talks about the pain of losing his eyes as punishment for stealing. Characters die during an earthquake, sailing across the Veiled Sea, or fighting a mythical creature. Lalani's mom has "mender’s disease" after pricking her finger on a needle and many of the women on the island have died from it. Two boys bully another and try to make him kill an animal. 

Sex

Characters talk about their crushes and kissing.

Language

Characters use mild insults including "idiot" and "stupid."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Lalani of the Distant Sea, by Newbery-winning author Erin Entrada Kelly (Hello, Universe), is inspired by Filipino folklore. It tells the story of 12-year-old Lalani Sarita, who sails away from her home island, Sanlagita, to the northern island Isa in search of a way to save her friends and family. Although courage, compassion, and perseverance are important themes, sensitive readers might be frightened by some of the fantastical yet dangerous creatures that Lalani encounters on her epic quest. Characters tell stories of Mount Kahna's wrath and the evil mountain beast on Sanlagita. Characters die during an earthquake, sailing across the Veiled Sea, or fighting a mythical creature. Lalani’s mom ends up with "mender's disease," which many of the women on the island have died from. Characters talk about their crushes and kissing. 

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What's the story?

Inspired by Filipino folklore, LALANI OF THE DISTANT SEA tells the story of 12-year-old Lalani Sarita who lives on the island of Sanlagita and goes on an epic quest to save her family and friends. Generations of men, including her dad, have tried to sail across the Veiled Sea but none has been able to reach the legendary Mount Isa. When her mom gets sick after pricking her finger on a needle and the villagers start to blame Lalani for all of Sanlagita's problems, she finds the courage to sail to Mount Isa and search for its magical flower that will hopefully save everyone. Can Lalani overcome the dangerous obstacles on her journey? Will she do what many believed to be impossible and bring the riches of Mount Isa back to Sanlagita?

Is it any good?

Kids will love this fantastical adventure that emphasizes the power of friendship, compassion, and self-reliance. Author Erin Entrada Kelly seamlessly weaves life lessons into Lalani of the Distant Sea and uses vivid details, gorgeous illustrations, and a rich cast of characters to bring Sanlagita and its mythical creatures to life. There are some frightening moments along Lalani's epic quest to save her friends and family, but her courage and perseverance will encourage kids to believe in themselves, fight for their loved ones, and remind them that good will always conquer evil.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in Lalani of the Distant Sea. Is it overwhelming, or does the fantasy setting make it easier to handle?

  • Is Filipino folklore new to you? What did you learn? Where can you learn more?

  • What makes Lalani such a strong character? How does she demonstrate compassion, perseverance, and courage on her quest? Why are those important character strengths?

Book details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love fantasy books and Filipino stories

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