From the publisher: In a world split between the Inside and the Outside, those living in both realms are told never to cross over to the other side, lest they be cursed. A young girl named Shiva lives on the other side, in a vacant village with a demonic guardian known only as “Teacher.” Although the two are forbidden to touch, they seem to share a bond that transcends their disparate appearances.
Impressive horns notwithstanding, “Teacher” is really more a genteel and gentle creature who lives in a sensible forest cottage and wears a waistcoat (and, at one point, an apron), than he is a demonic guardian. Shiva is sweet without wandering too close to precocious and Teacher is a more likeable Niles Crane. The two spend time playing at tea parties, baking, and foraging for supplies.
The world building is quick and efficient; its themes are of found family and sudden, fierce, accidental loyalty. The initial mystery: “what’s the deal with this kid and why is she out here with The Outsiders?” And the questions of: “What’s the deal with The Outsiders? Are they all as charming as this one? Are they actually a threat to the humans? What is this curse anyway?”, though unresolved, leave me hungry to read the other six books in the series (the 7th is due out in August 2019) as quickly as possible. Though, honestly, if this was just about these two characters living in the forest, enjoying tea, experiencing very minor peril due to storms or bread incidents, that would be totally fine. Add in some gardening and you pretty much have my ideal book.
The Girl from the Other Side is also a great entrance into manga for younger folks wanting more high-stakes than, say, the cat problems of Chi’s Sweet World. As an elementary school librarian, I can say there’s a big interest in graphic novels and manga, but a total lack of interest in the drama and intricacies of adult romantic relationships that most focus on, which is fair, because: same. [Maura: Can confirm—my 8 year old nephew is reading this at the moment and loving it!]
- You’ll like this if you like: Dark fairy tales, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Little Black Book of Stories by A.S. Byatt, Through the Woods by Emily Carroll, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
- This is a great gift for: Kids about 10ish (the publishers says “teen” and maybe there will be content that isn’t appropriate for younger folks later, but in my experience kids can totally handle and are very interested in story lines that deal with mortality, anxiety, loss, innocence and knowledge, etc.)
- Likelihood that I will dress up as Teacher for Halloween: 90%
- For best results: Please imagine Teacher’s voice & line delivery to be that of Terry Pratchett’s character “Death” from any of the audio books narrated by Nigel Planer or the lovely holiday film The Hogfather.