In Lalani of the Distant Sea, 12-year-old Lalani Sarita lives on the island of Sanlagita. Her life there doesn’t hold much more than mending fishing nets. When her mother gets sick, Lalani goes on a quest to a mysterious island to the north in hopes of securing a better future. Hardy sailors have made the same journey, but no one has returned. What hope does Lalani have?
Newbery Medal winner Erin Entrada Kelly told TFK that she wanted to show how “ordinary people can ignite change.” Lalani is a regular girl with no magical powers or abilities, but she cares deeply about her family and her people. She’s willing to do anything for them. “I wanted to explore the power of compassion,” says Kelly, “and the role it plays in a society built on fear and oppression.”