by Kwame Alexander (Author)
Dreams are today's answers for tomorrow's questions.
11-year-old Kofi Offin dreams of water. Its mysterious, immersive quality. The rich, earthy scent of the current. The clearness, its urgent whisper that beckons with promises and secrets...
Kofi has heard the call on the banks of Upper Kwanta, in the village where he lives. He loves these things above all else: his family, the fireside tales of his father's father, a girl named Ama, and, of course, swimming. Some say he moves like a minnow, not just an ordinary boy so he's hoping to finally prove himself in front of Ama and his friends in a swimming contest against his older, stronger cousin.
But before this can take place, a festival comes to the villages of Upper and Lower Kwanta and Kofi's brother is chosen to represent Upper Kwanta in the wrestling contest. Encircled by cheering spectators and sounding drums, the two wrestlers from different villages kneel, ready to fight.
You are only fine, until you are not.
The match is over before it has barely begun, when the unthinkable-a sudden death-occurs...
The river does not care how grown you are.
As his world turns upside down, Kofi soon ends up in a fight for his life. What happens next will send him on a harrowing journey across land and sea, and away from everything he loves.
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Newbery Medalist Alexander's gripping historical novel in verse, a trilogy opener rooted in the Asante Kingdom in 1860, centers 11-year-old Kofi Offin--a child deeply connected to water. In early, lyrical chapters that evoke a dreamlike childhood, Kofi lives with his family in Upper Kwanta, where he swims in the river that is his namesake, engages with best mate Ebo, crushes on longtime friend Ama, and listens to the tales of his village-storyteller grandfather, Nana Mosi--who details "the past/ like it lives/ in him, / like it still matters." He also clashes with his cousin, a bully, and Mr. Goodluck Phillip, the schoolteacher imparting "the Queen's English" and Shakespeare to students speaking their native Twi. When an annual festival pits wrestlers from Upper and Lower Kwanta against one another, and Kofi's older brother, Kwasi, is set to represent their village, an unexpected death sets off a series of tragedies that upend Kofi's world. Interweaving moments of joyful exuberance and heartbreaking sadness via sensate lines by turns sweet and stinging, Alexander's sweeping novel conjures a captivating, resonant world of African tradition, life, and ancestral wisdom. Ages 10-up. Agent: Arielle Eckstut, Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary. (Sept.)Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
Gr 5 Up--The beginning of a planned trilogy set in western Africa in 1860, the latest offering from Newbery winner Alexander introduces readers to Kofi Offin. His experiences are a window to what life would have been like for a boy growing up in that specific place and time. He has a crush on Ama. He loves his grandfather's stories. He has learned English in school but speaks Twi with his family and friends. His cousin bullies him and he challenges him to a swimming race. When Kofi's brother accidentally kills his opponent in a wrestling match, the gentle verse narrative is disrupted because the family of the dead wrestler captures Kofi and his brother. They take them away from their village to the coast; Kofi goes through the door of no return and is put on a boat where things get very bad very quickly. The cliff-hanger ensures that future volumes will tackle the rest of Kofi's story. Books with enslaved main characters certainly exist in juvenile fiction, but the reality of the transatlantic slave trade hasn't been so adeptly captured for young readers to date. This important book is ideal for classroom discussion; shelve alongside Sharon Draper's Copper Sun and Julius Lester's Day of Tears. VERDICT Told in Alexander's lyrical and masterly style, this gritty and compelling novel of Kofi's life should be included in all library collections that serve young readers.--Kristin L. AndersonCopyright 2022 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.