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Young Adult Fiction Magical Realism

Catfish Rolling

by (author) Clara Kumagai

Tundra Book Group
Initial publish date
Oct 2023
Magical Realism, Asia, Death & Dying
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2023
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 14 to 18
  • Grade: 9 to 12


A debut young adult coming-of-age book with magic realism elements, Catfish Rolling is perfect for fans of Studio Ghibli films and Laura Ruby's Bone Gap.

There's a catfish under Japan, and when it rolls, the land rises and falls. At least, that's what Sora was told after she lost her mother to an earthquake so powerful that it cracked time itself. Sora and her father are some of the few who still live near the most powerful of these "zones" — the places where time has been irrevocably sped up, or slowed down.
When high school ends, and her best friend leaves for university, Sora finds herself stuck and increasingly alone. She begins secretly conducting her own research, tracking down a time expert in Tokyo. She also feels increasingly conflicted in her quasi-romantic feelings for her best friend — and for the time expert's assistant, a striking and confident girl named Maya, another hafu (half-Japanese, half-non) girl with whom Sora forms an instant bond.
But when Sora's father disappears, she has no choice but to return home and venture deep into the abandoned time zones to find him, and perhaps the catfish itself . . .

About the author

Contributor Notes

CLARA KUMAGAI is from Canada, Japan and Ireland. Her fiction and non-fiction for children and adults has been published in The Stinging Fly, The Irish Times, Banshee, Room, The Kyoto Journal and Cicada, among others. She is a recipient of a We Need Diverse Books Mentorship, and was a finalist for the 2020 Jim Wong-Chu Emerging Writers Award. Catfish Rolling is her debut novel.

Editorial Reviews

"Excellent, evocative, and thoughtful, with genuine depth." —Nicola Yoon, #1 New York Times bestselling author

"Clara Kumagai's world-building is rich and expansive, situating magic and folklore solidly in the real-life sorrows and joys of coming of age in our fragile time. A fresh, new, welcome voice in young adult speculative literature." —Sarah Ellis, Governor General's Award-winning author

"A wonderfully written and utterly absorbing saga. Sora's heartbreaking quest is seamlessly interwoven with Japanese culture and profound observations about time." —Kit Pearson, award-winning author of The Sky is Falling and Awake and Dreaming
"Set in a world shattered by loss and haunted by memories, spirits, and folktale creatures, Catfish Rolling is a stirring exploration of the relationship between time and grief. Lovingly crafted and beautifully written, this tale will linger with you long after the story comes to an end." —Traci Chee, Printz Honor-winning author of We Are Not Free

"Catfish Rolling hooked me from its opening line and held me suspended until its end. In this utterly fresh debut, Kumagai draws readers into a richly-imagined world that is equal parts visceral and poetic. Her prose absolutely sings, her characters are evocative, and the message woven within this story's pages is so beautifully rendered. Truly, a literary tour de force." —Ayana Gray, New York Times bestselling author of the Beasts of Prey trilogy

"Haunted, haunting, a beautiful slow swirl into loss, mourning, love. Take your time reading this book . . . marvellous!" —Hiromi Goto, award-winning author of Half World