Book Reviews

Review: Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly

So this is the final book in the 12 Friends 12 Books project. And I’m so happy I ended up with this one! Talk about a fun fantasy middle grade gem. It’s a story with heart, family, and community all wrapped up in one. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.


There are stories of extraordinary children who are chosen from birth to complete great quests and conquer evil villains.

This is no such story.

Sometimes, you are an ordinary child.

Sometimes, you have to choose yourself.

This is the story of Lalani Sarita, a twelve-year-old girl who lives on the island of Sanlagita in the shadow of a vengeful mountain. When she makes a fateful wish that endangers her already-vulnerable village, she sets out across the distant sea in search of life’s good fortunes. Grown men have died making the same journey. What hope does an ordinary girl have?

Inspired by Filipino folklore, Lalani of the Distant Sea introduces readers to a landscape of magical creatures, such as Bai-Vinca, the enormous birdwoman; Ditasa Ulod, part woman, part eel; the mindoren, a race of creatures modeled after the water buffalo; and the whenbo — trees that eat the souls of the dead.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

Lalani of the Distant Sea is full of stories. It’s full of questions about speaking up, standing out, and adventuring. Lalani is a compelling character who is so fiercely trying to do what’s right in a community where being different is cause for danger. Where speaking out and standing out isn’t looked kindly upon. A community which could ignite with a spark and Lalani knows only too well the dangers of desperation. Lalani stole my heart.

I was absolutely swept away not only in the delight and danger of stories, but in Lalani’s character. In the ways she tries so hard, against all these odds, to help. It made me think about what happens when the people we trust don’t treat us right. About what we will do to fit in, to go with the flow. In Lalani of the Distant Sea Entrada Kelly also examines the community as a whole. The difficulty of standing up and doing the right thing. All the chances we have to make amends, to be brave.

Overall, Lalani of the Distant Sea is an action packed and charming middle grade about doing what’s right. The motivational power of caring about our family and community. About good intentions, second chances, and perseverance. And what we can do with our voice and actions.

(Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links. For more information you can look at the Policy page. If you’re uncomfortable with that, know you can look up the book on any of the sites below to avoid the link)

Find Lalani of the Distant Sea on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.


What is your favorite fantasy middle grade?

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