by Nnedi Okorafor (Author)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

Nnedi Okorafor's acclaimed first novel for middle grade readers introduces a boy who can access super powers with the help of the magical Ikenga.

Nnamdi's father was a good chief of police, perhaps the best Kalaria had ever had. He was determined to root out the criminals that had invaded the town. But then he was murdered, and most people believed the Chief of Chiefs, most powerful of the criminals, was responsible. Nnamdi has vowed to avenge his father, but he wonders what a twelve-year-old boy can do. Until a mysterious nighttime meeting, the gift of a magical object that enables super powers, and a charge to use those powers for good changes his life forever. How can he fulfill his mission? How will he learn to control his newfound powers?

Award-winning Nnedi Okorafor, acclaimed for her Akata novels, introduces a new and engaging hero in her first novel for middle grade readers set against a richly textured background of contemporary Nigeria.

Publishers Weekly

A year after his father--respected police chief of Nigerian suburb Kaleria--is murdered and 12-year-old Nnamdi and his mother fall into difficult circumstances, the boy encounters his dad's ghost. The spirit gives him an Ikenga, an ebony figurine that can transform Nnamdi into an enormous space-black figure with immense strength and superhuman senses. Through this alter ego, soon dubbed The Man and called out by the new police chief for embracing vigilante justice, the boy takes on Kaleria's most nefarious criminals, including the feared Chief of Chiefs, whom Nnamdi believes is responsible for his father's death. The powers also ignite equally powerful feelings that Nnamdi struggles to control. Blending Nigerian culture and American comics, Okorafor (the Akata series) has created a black hero struggling to work toward justice while navigating inequitable power structures and others' definitions of who he is. Details, including Igbo phrases, villain names (Three Days Journey, Mama Go-Slow), and food descriptions, evoke a vivid sense of place amid the story's recognizable beats. Fans of classic superheroes--including Nnamdi's favorite, the Incredible Hulk--and readers looking for a young superhero will find a champion in Nnamdi. Ages 10-up. Agent: Donald Maass, Donald Maass Literary. (Aug.)

Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 4-8—Fans of Okorafor's "Akata" series will enjoy the author's middle grade debut, introducing her work to a new set of readers. When 12-year-old Nnamdi Icheteka's father is murdered, this Nigerian boy draws on the powers of his ancestors and an ancient magic to cope with his loss and deal with the growing criminal underground threatening to take over his hometown of Kaleria. This wonderfully fresh superhero origin story offers a look into the shadowy, inexplicable powers that are suddenly in the hands of an ordinary child. Through the strength bestowed upon him by the Igbo symbol of an Ikenga, Nnamdi transforms into an otherworldly force as he metaphorically deals with the big emotions of grief and tries to solve the mystery of who killed his father. While the themes of good vs. evil and vigilante justice will seem familiar, Okorafor has created unique, multifaceted characters that will have young readers hoping for Nnamdi's next adventure. VERDICT Though violent at times, this fantasy novel will surely appeal to comic-book lovers and mystery-seekers alike, and would be an asset to any library.—Monisha Blair, Rutgers Univ., NJ

Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
Nnedi Okorafor
Nnedi Okorafor is the daughter of Nigerian-born (Igbo) parents. She grew up in the Chicago area, with frequent trips back to Nigeria. There she absorbed the history and mythology that infuse her works of science fiction and fantasy. She has received the Hugo, the Nebula, the World Fantasy Award, and the Locus Award for her work, and her fans include Neil Gaiman, Rick Riordan, John Green, and Ursula Le Guin. Ms. Okorafor holds a PhD in English. She lives with her daughter in the suburbs of Chicago.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
August 20, 2020
Age Range
8 - 12 years

Subscribe to our delicious e-newsletter!