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Catfish Rolling

"This beautiful, uniquely engaging page-turner melds Japanese myth, magic realism and the traumatic aftermath of the Great Japan Earthquake"

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LoveReading4Kids Says

LoveReading4Kids Says

March 2024 Debut of the Month

Inspired by the Great Japan Earthquake of 2011, and Japanese folklore about a giant catfish that lives under Japan and causes the ground to shake when it rolls, Clara Kumagai’s Catfish Rolling is a remarkable debut. Interlaced with Japanese myth and magic realist wonder, it explores trauma, grief, identity, science and nature, with unique concepts and characters that linger like the shadows of the liminal spaces of this beautiful book. The storytelling is sublime.

“When it happened, it was springtime. The cherry blossoms looked like clouds — so pink and fluffy, they might rain sugar”. Seventeen-year-old Sora was still a child when the quake came. Immediately after, “It felt as though the world had stopped, and for a handful of heartbeats we all floated, suspended in space”. Seven years on, it’s as if the world has still stopped for Sora. She lost her Japanese mother in the Shake and now she and her Canadian scientist father are still lost, living close to the deserted wild zones where, since the Shake, time runs differently — faster, or slower, with their own zonal micro-seasons.

Sora and her father explore these liminal spaces, mapping them out, aided by her ability to “feel the boundaries between time zones”. But the zones aren’t safe. People who’ve spent time in them experience hallucinatory side-effects, and there are theories that the Shake “moved time as if they were tectonic plates and cracks must have opened in between.” Could people have fallen between times? Could people have new lives in different times? Could they be trapped? Might they be found?

Sora’s search for her mother between the cracks, between time, feels within grasp just as her father is “going to pieces”. Through escalating urgency, Sora is a funny, endearing character — at times awkward, always curious and haunted by her loss. At heart, this is a mesmerising story about the way “Time swirls and settles in deep places” and how “Memories leave and return”, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Joanne Owen

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Catfish Rolling

Clara Kumagai


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