cover image Lonely Castle in the Mirror

Lonely Castle in the Mirror

Mizuki Tsujimura, trans. from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel. Erewhon, $27.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-64566-040-8

Alice in Wonderland meets The Breakfast Club in this stunning outing from Tsujimura (Anime Supremacy), beautifully translated by Gabriel. Seventh grader Kokoro Anzai is bullied so badly that she drops out of Yukishina No. 5 Junior High School and can’t bring herself to attend the alternative school, “Kokoro no kyoshitsu” (or “Classroom for the Heart”), selected by her parents. Instead, Kokoro escapes during the school day into the other side of her glowing bedroom mirror. There she finds a Western fairy tale castle run by the Wolf Queen, a girl in a pinafore dress and a wolf mask, who has brought Kokoro and six other children to her realm on a special quest: whoever finds a key to a “wishing room” will have their wish granted—and Kokoro’s wish is to make her bullies disappear. Gabriel does an excellent job of contextualizing Japanese honorifics for a Western audience and explaining character names as the story unfolds gently and satisfyingly, offering sensitively drawn portraits of suffering teenagers whom the regular school system has failed. This sweet, kindhearted, and deeply sympathetic magical realist novel about middle school dropouts pulling each other back from the brink will resonate with readers of all ages. (Oct.)