The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy have reviews all over the Internet! There are many and they aren't all here. Or there. Or over there, either. It's just the way the Internet works.
Some are at Amazon, or Kobo or iBooks or B & N, or at other retailers, associated with each book. Some aren't. Most editorial and reader reviews are at the publishers or retailers, but not always, and are not always associated with the new editions of the books. Some retailers have branches in different countries, and the reviews don't seem to have passports. Keeping track is like chasing rainbows or catching falling stars.
Here are some reviews and some links to reviews so you can see how other people react to these fun and fantastical tales from the Meiji Era.
“The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy is an imaginative and unique tale full of captivating settings, mesmerizing fantastical elements, and unforgettable characters. Author Claire Youmans spins a truly lovely story.” See the entire review and an interview at:
"Shota and Azuki's epic journey is a great read and it simply flies along." Kirkus.
"Claire Youmans' "The Toki-Girl & The Sparrow-Boy is a must have for any collection of literary works. The book is loaded with interesting bites of Japanese Folklore, European culture and offers a diverse group of general behavior within a framework of mysticism that follows solid guidelines of truth." Ankh Entertainment, with video interview.
There's one for Book Two, too.
(The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy); (The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book Two, Chasing Dreams)
…”a lovely tale full of sparking imagination, memorable characters and wondrous fantasy elements.”
…”unforgettable and likeable characters.”
“Like book one…an exciting and charming read.”
“timelessly classic and fresh.”
OnlineBookClub.Org has reviews for ALL SIX books -- start with this one and keep on going.
"The author definitely does a good job accurately depicting traditional Japanese culture and making it easy to understand."
"The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy is an imaginative and unique tale full of captivating settings, mesmerizing fantastical elements, and unforgettable characters." Review + interview:
"...a great read and it simply flies along." Kirkus.
"Claire Youmans' The Toki-Girl & The Sparrow-Boy is a must have."
youtu.be/_tFgt6pjEFw (The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy); youtu.be/W6JSZ8zy-74 (The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book Two, Chasing Dreams)
[Following is the official OnlineBookClub.org review of "The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy (series)" by Claire Youmans.]
4 out of 4 starsShare This Review
Just about this time last year, I wrote a review for a book titled Chasing Dreams, which was the second volume of The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series by Claire Youmans. This year, I am back with a review for Together, the third installment of The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boyseries. As I mentioned in my previous review, I did not read the first book in the series, which might have made reading the second book a bit more challenging. However, this time around, I did not feel like there were any problems following the story in this third book. Even with the passage of an entire year between reading the two volumes, it was easy for me to pick up this book and continue the story. Despite a lot of returning characters, I found that Together works pretty well as a standalone novel, as long as you can easily accept that the characters just know each other, without worrying about how they know each other (which is covered in the previous two novels).
Set in Japan sometime during the Meiji period (1868-1912), this book picks up where the previous book left off. Azuki, who has the ability to transform herself into the majestic toki bird, and Shota, her younger brother who can turn into a sparrow, have just returned to their home in Western Japan with their new guardian. Shota has taken up studying and sailing, and Azuki keeps herself occupied with weaving to make kimonos and other traditional textiles. When Azuki is suddenly ill, especially in her toki form with patches of missing feathers, Shota sets off on a mission to track down and seek help from the supposedly mythology Crane-woman.
The fun part about this book is the combination of actual history and mythological fantasy. I consider myself rather well-educated in Japanese culture, and this book presents so many elements absolutely perfectly (from my Western point of view, that is). There are also images of real, credited artwork at the start of each chapter that actually coincide with the events of the story, and this only enhances the enjoyment of the book. The bits and pieces of history and mythology that are woven into this story are so well done, it’s difficult to tell where the true history ends and the mythology begins.
When I read the previous book in this series, I remember getting a bit bored from some of the political and cultural information presented in the story. This time around, on the other hand, I never once felt such a negative experience. Explanations about food, clothing, and other customs, though not new to me, were presented in a fun and interesting manner that young readers could easily follow. There was even a helpful glossary at the end of the book with brief explanations of different items/terms that were mentioned throughout the story.
I absolutely adored this book, and, aside from maybe a single typo (not even worth mentioning as a negative, since I didn’t even bother taking note of it), I could find nothing at all to complain about. I gladly give this book a rating of 4 out of 4 stars and recommend it to those who are interested in Japanese culture or who just enjoy historical tales containing fantasy and adventure. Though this book is intended for children (middle-grade readers), adults like me should love it as well.
Uncle Yuta has an Adventure:
Independent Book Review:
Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
(click on Donvan's Bookshelf or scroll down)
Noriko's Journey: The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy
9780990323495, $14.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle
Noriko's Journey is Book 5 in the The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series and follows Azuki (a girl who incorporates the elements of a Toki bird with its beautiful plumage), sparrow-boy Shota, and Noriko, who has her own secrets and alter-identity. In this Japanese setting, the boundaries between human and animal are blurred, and special abilities and struggles juxtapose with everyday life changes from an uncle's marriage and new wife Noriko's challenge to accept her niece and nephew's secrets to a coming child who may be more crane than human.
In fact, they aren't the only ones to wonder if the next generation will be entirely stable: in this fantasy version of Japan, nothing is certain, and secrets abound within and between families. It will take a journey of challenge, acceptance, and change before Noriko can fully integrate her new position in life with its myriad demands and uncertainties.
While the story centers around two children who can turn into birds and their relationships with very different worlds, it also focuses on Japanese history and culture, the changing perspectives and dilemmas of those who traverse this odd world and its changing landscapes, and is especially strong in presenting the motivations and perceptions of inhabitants who, in one way, are very Japanese in their shrewd assessments of marriage proposals and life: "Toyoda-san was shrewd, Yuta thought. Marrying a second wife who was an older and experienced business-woman might be one way to acquire a cheap housekeeper and property manager. Yuta concluded that Toyoda-san was truly fond of Noriko and didn't want to see her dazzled by the offer of a late marriage to her ultimate detriment. He decided to forgive Toyoda-san's bad manners."
The surprising depth of the story comes from its focus and reflections on Japanese social strata and cultural inspection: "Noriko was one of the new women, she thought, the ones she read about, the independent ones who questioned traditional society and social roles. Religious life formed a part of traditional society, but Noriko wasn't the type to take that road, Satsuki could tell. Monasteries were for believing Buddhists, or those willing to pretend to be. Satsuki knew without asking that Noriko had never considered it. What she wanted to know was how samurai or aristocratic women functioned outside the system of marriage and family connections without becoming part of the floating world of entertainers. That was another refuge for upper-class women willing to sacrifice respectability for security and sometimes power. Noriko had avoided that, too."
This lends a profundity and series of real-world revelations unexpected in a fantasy setting, giving Noriko's Journey: The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy a credible element of not just believability, but astute insights into the perceptions and social connections of the Japanese as a people. Within this backdrop of detail lies a complex world of dragons, humans, quasi-humans, and special forces which operate beyond the usual realm of human concerns.
Interactions are multifarious yet engaging, injecting questions of heritage into an absorbing quest that leads each character to question their roots, objectives, and place in the world.
The result is a powerful fantasy infused with Japanese cultural inspection, description, and changes. While prior familiarity with the settings and characters from the other books in the series will make The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy's continuing saga easy to pick up, newcomers will discover that enough background is provided to lend to a relatively accessible read (albeit mid-journey).
What seems like a fairytale about children with uncommon gifts evolves into an engrossing tale that brings medieval Japan and its customs and culture to life. It's rare that a fantasy can claim to educate its readers about real-world circumstances; but The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy's approach both entertains and educates, making for a highly recommended, unique story that should appeal to all ages, from children to adults who appreciate history and fantasy stories that journey from individual challenges to the wider-ranging social and cultural inspection of Japanese women who struggle with many facets of their changing worlds.
Independent Book Review:
The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy: The Dragon Sisters
978-1-7339020-1-4 $16.99 Paper/$5.99 ebook
In Book 6 of The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, The Dragon Sisters, set in 1800s Japan, Dragon-girl Renko's ability to assume human form places her in a unique dilemma while her sister Otohime faces similar conflict about her identity after the death of her human husband. Where do their loyalties and hearts lie: with humans, or dragons?
First of all, it should be noted that the setting of this fantasy is real. The Dragon Sisters is rooted in Meiji Era Japan, which took place from 1868 to 1912, when a form of innovative Renaissance thinking flourished. However, this story is set in the World of Make-Believe, where "...there exists a Japan that incorporates both the objective reality and Japan's colorful, adventurous folklore."
Herein lie the roots of the Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series, where the Dragon Sisters face challenges to their lives, hearts, and minds.
As Renko and Otohime cope with challenges to their individuality, vast changes in Japanese society, and the Meiji era's unique opportunities and dangers, readers are treated to a fantasy that at first might seem directed to preteens or young adults, but which holds historical and folklore elements of interest to all ages.
Renko and Otohime and Noriko and Shota, from previous adventures, face new ideas as strangers from overseas become familiar and exotic presences in Japan's ports. Claire Youmans excels in crafting detailed descriptions of the changes Japan faces during this time, which reach through society and into individual lives, perceptions, and encounters.
Sometimes these descriptions are very precise and involved, which may stymie readers looking for a quick fantasy read; but by now it should be evident that The Dragon Sisters is so much more than a quick leisure choice, holding the depth of description necessary to understand Japanese culture and society as a whole: "But here — there were so many different kinds of humans to watch! The clothes were different, too. There were Japanese clothes, mostly simple garments wrapped and tied for universal fit and easy adjustment as more or less coverage was required due to outside temperatures. More complex Japanese clothing, that of dressed up business-owners or workers, Samurai, officials or ladies, appeared here and there. Yuta and Noriko were typical of this latter group, with his plain schoolmaster's dark kimono and Noriko's simply wrapped and sashed green one being respectable understated daywear, not particularly fancy, their status showing only in the beautiful silk fabrics of which they were made. While merchants could now wear silk with the repeal of the sumptuary laws, getting fabrics and clothing made for them conflicted with the manufacture of fabrics for export and for the Western wear that was becoming increasingly popular among all classes in Japan."
There's always the temptation to fudge on description and forego detail in favor of action. Youmans never succumbs to this lure and, as a result, The Dragon Sisters is a multi-faceted fantasy that juxtaposes the growth of powers and special abilities and the perspectives of dragons, quasi-dragons and humans with Japan's evolutionary process and history.
Forced to embrace both their human and dragon sides, Renko and Otohime struggle for identity and survival in a world where their lives are entwined and mixed. This struggle is nicely captured in poignant moments of realization and reassessment: "Somehow, for some reason, she was unable to change. She tried not to panic. She remained a girl. She could manage as a girl, couldn't she? Why couldn't she change? It wasn't just the size of the space — she realized she felt weak. Even when she tottered to the little pond to get a restorative drink, she felt weak. And weaker. She tried to lift a rock. She couldn't lift a rock she could normally lift as a girl. Anxiety rose in her. She breathed steadily. She couldn't let herself panic. Yes, it was now obvious that her human abilities were normally augmented by her dragon capabilities, but this was ridiculous. She slid to the ground."
The Dragon Sisters is a compelling, involving story that blends fantasy, Japanese history and folklore, and a different kind of coming of age story that reaches well into adult readership. It's highly recommended for its wonderful twining of personal and social change that leaves readers not just with a fine adventure which both adds to the series and stands well on its own, but that transmits the history and cultural identity of Japan to audiences who may be relatively unfamiliar with Japanese peoples and history.