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The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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What's the story?
After Balsa, a female warrior/bodyguard for hire, rescues a boy thrown in a river, she learns that he's actually a prince on a quest to deliver the egg of the water spirit to the sea. Prince Chagum's mother hires Balso to protect him on his journey. As they travel across the land of Yogo, they're hunted by both the egg-eating monster Rarunga and Prince Chagum's father.
Is it any good?
This story has been done before; what matters here is how amazingly well it's done, the panache with which the author carries it off, and the variations she brings to the tale. MORBITO: GUARDIAN OF THE SPIRIT follows a classic hero path: Sheltered boy is cast out of his home, discovers a magical destiny, finds a warrior mentor, learns the ways of the world, and journeys to fulfill his destiny against overwhelming obstacles.
Author Nahoko Uehashi, abetted by a brilliantly transparent translation by Yuko Shimizu, does a wonderful job. Set in an exotic, somewhat Japanese fantasy world that will be more familiar to manga fans than most other readers, and with a woman as the warrior mentor, the variations are many and fascinating. And from the very first page the story careens forward in the most exciting and satisfying way, almost completely free of the kind of clichéd and hackneyed writing that too often mars stories that follow this path, marking them as rip-offs rather than variations on a theme. Ten books in this series have already been published in Japan, so enthralled readers can hope for more translations soon.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the classic Path of the Hero. How is the plot outline of this story similar to others you have read? What are the variations? Is this one better or worse than the others? What makes it so?
Why do some stories endure in folklore? What power do they have to thrill generation after generation?
Have you read any other stories based in Japanese tradition? How is this story like a manga tale?
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