A memorable middle-grade murder mystery that’s darkly humorous in some places and delightfully creepy in others.

A 12-year-old seeks revenge after his father is murdered.

It seems that every great hero’s origin story begins with unthinkable trauma, and Nnamdimma “Nnamdi” Icheteka’s beginning is no different. A year after his father, the police chief of Kaleria, is gunned down, Nnamdi chases a figure through his town and is gifted a mysterious Ikenga—which means “place of strength” in Igbo—totem that gives him superpowers and guides him through different, herculean tasks to discover his father’s killer. Set in a small province in Southeastern Nigeria, Okorafor’s tale features an eclectic cast of villains—whose curious quirks and storied names don’t make them any less lethal—and literal ride-or-die friendships that are tested by Nnamdi’s ongoing struggles to control his powers. She creates a believable, flawed superhero who, even when he transforms, is still very much a 12-year-old boy: confused, scared and frustrated about why his path seems to be particularly difficult; his best friend, Chioma, has this sage life advice: “It’s not about the answers to a riddle; it’s about what you learn by solving it.” Okorafor’s thoughtful mixing of West African traditional religions with Christian beliefs flows easily throughout the narrative alongside her regular inclusion of Igbo greetings and phrasings, although the actual story pacing can be slow and uneven.

A memorable middle-grade murder mystery that’s darkly humorous in some places and delightfully creepy in others. (Mystery. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11352-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020


From the Legacy series , Vol. 2

A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship.

A young tennis champion becomes the target of revenge.

In this sequel to Legacy and the Queen (2019), Legacy Petrin and her friends Javi and Pippa have returned to Legacy’s home province and the orphanage run by her father. With her friends’ help, she is in training to defend her championship when they discover that another player, operating under the protection of High Consul Silla, is presenting herself as Legacy. She is so convincing that the real Legacy is accused of being an imitation. False Legacy has become a hero to the masses, further strengthening Silla’s hold, and it becomes imperative to uncover and defeat her. If Legacy is to win again, she must play her imposter while disguised as someone else. Winning at tennis is not just about money and fame, but resisting Silla’s plans to send more young people into brutal mines with little hope of better lives. Legacy will have to overcome her fears and find the magic that allowed her to claim victory in the past. This story, with its elements of sports, fantasy, and social consciousness that highlight tensions between the powerful and those they prey upon, successfully continues the series conceived by late basketball superstar Bryant. As before, the tennis matches are depicted with pace and spirit. Legacy and Javi have brown skin; most other characters default to White.

A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-949520-19-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021


From the Teddies Saga series , Vol. 1

Reflective children will revel in this thought-provoking world.

The journey to find a child becomes an existential quest for an abandoned teddy bear.

Buddy is not just any stuffed bear, but a blue Furrington Teddy with a Real Silk Heart. So why did he wake up in a landfill with other Furringtons of varying hues? A more pressing matter, however, is escaping Trashland and its murderous gulls and bulldozers. Yearning to connect with a child and achieve a state of peaceful Forever Sleep, Buddy and his new friends of differing temperaments and gifts set out on a harrowing journey through the city to find children who will want them. As they encounter other Furringtons in disarray, this opener in The Teddies Saga series becomes a mystery about why these teddies are being harmed in the first place. While the visceral narrative follows the teddy troupe’s adventurous challenges and survival, its focus is on Buddy’s inner struggles as he ponders identity, leadership, and other existential dilemmas. Kraus doesn’t shy away from anger, fear, death, and other dark subjects; instead they become opportunities for growth in difficult environments. Cai’s intense, slightly nightmarish grayscale illustrations add immeasurably to the text. Reminiscent of Watership Down in theme and structure, the novel’s intermittent teddy creation stories also become parables of a moral code and extend the epic story arc. A cliffhanger ending sets the scene for the next installment.

Reflective children will revel in this thought-provoking world. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-22440-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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