Class book review: Lalani of the Distant Sea

This story, inspired by Filipino folklore, has similarities to Disney's Moana – but offers much more, our reviewers say
20th September 2020, 11:30am
Nicole McCracken


Class book review: Lalani of the Distant Sea
Lalani Of The Distant Sea, By Erin Entrada Kelly

Lalani of the Distant Sea

Author: Erin Entrada Kelly
Publisher: Piccadilly Press
Details: 416pp; £6.99
ISBN: 978-1848129153

Teacher review

Lalani of the Distant Sea, by Erin Entrada Kelly, is a story about finding strength and courage during dark and uncertain times. This is a story that follows one young girl's adventure into the unknown. Lalani must ignore the whispers and stories that have spread across her island, and listen to her inner voice. 

After reading the first few chapters, I thought I had sussed out the plot, as it reminded me very much of Disney's Moana. However, this story offers so much more. The beautiful illustrations by Lian Cho draw the reader in further to the magic of Isa and its mysterious creatures, inspired by Filipino folklore. 

This is a story of a 12-year-old girl, Lalani Sarita, who lives on the island of Sanlagita. Mount Kahna watches over the islanders; it casts a shadow of vengeance, impatience and fear. 

The Sanlagitans say their benedictions every night to please the beast. However, when Lalani's mother falls ill, she makes an ill-fated decision that endangers the island and all those who live there. 

Lalani is left with no choice but to attempt the journey across the distant sea. Will she reach the legend of Mount Isa, bask in its light and save her mother? Or will she die trying, like many men before her who felt Isa calling?

Nicole McCracken is a Year 4 teacher based in London

Pupil reviews

'A very engaging storyline'

The main character in the story is a 12-year-old Sanlagitan girl, named Lalani, who has a rude stepfather and stepbrother, called Drum and Kul. 

A positive person who has a good impact on her life is her mother: a quiet, gentle woman who keeps her thoughts to herself. 

Secondly, there is Veyda, who is Lalani's best friend. Veyda is a sprightly and caring girl, who speaks her mind. 

The island of Sanlagita is sandwiched between Mount Kahna and Mount Isa. The Sanlagitans people treat Kahna like a judgemental and evil god. However, they worship Isa like a heavenly paradise, which gives good fortune. 

For me, the most enjoyable part of the book began when Lalani journeyed up the side of Mount Kahna, as it made me want to read on. I would recommend this book as it had a very engaging storyline. 

Although she lives on a very remote island, Lalani goes on a very big adventure. Also, I like the way the story made me reflect on whether I am leading a good life and treating others kindly. 

Mary, age 10

'I felt really sorry for the islanders'

The village that Lalani lives in has a very serve drought, and life is becoming harder and harder for the villagers. The elder menyoro rules the village with an iron fist, but allows himself to be selfish and extremely greedy. 

At this point, I felt really sorry for the islanders, as their crops are not able to grow.

Sadly, Lalani's mother falls very ill, and the drought means the herbs that could cure her are very scarce. With little help from her stepfather, Lalani is forced to find a cure for her dying mother herself.

Myth has it that anyone who enters the forest of Kahna will be killed by a wild beast. Lalani enters the forest, and with good fortune manages to avoid the beast, thanks to a horned blind man, Ellseth, who lives in this forbidden place. Her life changes for ever after this…

Angelina, age 10

'Very moving and exciting, but there wasn't much description'

In the beginning, Lalani meets the beast of Mount Kahna. One day, her mother falls ill, and this makes Lalani angry, so she sets off to find Mount Isa for a cure. 

She asks her best friend Veyda to look after her mum, as Lalani can't while she's away. Lalani is so brave to go on to the ocean, not knowing about it. 

I would rate this book four out of five stars because it is very moving and exciting but there wasn't much description. It made me realise how other people have a harder life. 

Joseph, age 10

'Mythical, magical, adventure'

I really enjoyed this book, as it reminded me of other books and films I have read and seen. 

Words I would use to describe this story are: mythical, adventure, twists and turns, brave, magical, and exciting. 

My favourite character is Usou, I really liked how she helped Lalani.

Tamiko, age 10

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