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

IKENGA

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 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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

LEGACY AND THE DOUBLE

From the Legacy series , Vol. 2

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 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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