I have spent nearly my entire life never knowing that the Miyazaki film I grew up loving had been inspired by a book. Of course, for much of my life, that book was not available in English and thus my ignorance on the matter isn’t really surprising. In fact, initially, I thought that this book was based on the film rather than that it was the inspiration for it in the first place. But, much to my pleasure and amazement, I had the immense pleasure of reading Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono thanks to a newly published English translation by Emily Balistrieri.
It’s not the movie. But then, it doesn’t have to be.
Kiki’s Delivery Service, at it’s core, has always been a story about a young witch coming of age and finding her place in the world. From book to film, that central premise does not change. With that said, there are some key differences between Kadono’s story and the Miyazaki rendition many of us know and love. And you could break apart each difference if you wished, but they all ultimately boil down to one thing in the end: telling a single story vs. telling a story episodically.
Whereas with Miyazaki we get one complete story from start to finish, Kadono’s Kiki experiences her coming of age in single moments that don’t necessarily connect together in a neat and tidy way. There’s a central conflict that fills the film every step of the way, but with the novel it’s more like a bunch of different conflicts that don’t exactly impact the other.
This isn’t bad, perse, just different.
But, it’s something to keep in mind when you’re picking up this book. If you’re doing so simply because you love the movie and you want to read the book version, you’re probably not going to love Kiki’s Delivery Service.
I read Jiji in the voice from the film.
I, very quickly, became a huge fan of Kadono’s coming of age tale. Kiki is gloriously quirky in a way you almost don’t see as much with the movie. Reading this novel was an experience that allowed me to better understand certain comments from the movie, too, that I’d never quite gotten before. And while I don’t think comparing the two is really the important piece here, it’s hard not to so.
I think, ultimately, this is definitely a book I would have considered great but not loved in any way had the movie not existed. The nostalgia aspect really is what sold me on it. Granted, I do feel that this novel is perfect for middlegrade readers. It’s honestly excellent bedtime reading for your little ones since each chapter very much feels like a single episode of Kiki’s life, making it quite easy to stop and not feel like you’re being left on a cliff.
You meet many of the characters you know and love from the film, though I’ll admit that there was not as much of Tombo as I would have liked. At the end of the day, this is a story about a 12-year-old witch coming of age and really learning about herself. She has her black cat, Jiji, there with her–whom I loved immensely–to help along the way. Kiki’s figuring out the way her life will go and developing her priorities in life. She’s growing up.
Sending my niece a copy.
It’s pretty rare that I come across a middlegrade book and think, oh, I should send this to my niece. She’s only six and therefore doesn’t really need books like this since she’s just learning to read and definitely couldn’t tackle this one her own. But this is the kind of book that I think would work excellently as a bedtime story. And it’s one that I hope she enjoys immensely because, after the book, I hope she’ll watch the movie and fall in love just like I did.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.