MG – Ikenga

Okorafor, Nnedi. Ikenga. Viking, 2020. 978-0-593-11352-3. 227 p. $16.99. Grades 6-7.

Nnamdi is devastated when his father, the police chief of their Nigerian town, is murdered. He vows to get revenge, but a year later, the murder remains unsolved, and Nnamdi is increasingly frustrated as he sees his mother struggling to support them, especially after she is mugged by one of the brazen petty criminals who torment the town. That is when he encounters his father’s spirit, who gives him a small figurine called an Ikenga. Nnamdi soon discovers that the figure imbues him with superpowers like those of his favorite comic book hero, the Hulk, when he becomes enraged. While Nnamdi means to use his powers for good, taking down various local crooks, it soon becomes evident that Nnamdi has to learn how to harness his superpowers before he seriously harms someone. His alternate ego, known as The Man, is garnering much attention in the town and from the press, but not always positively, After nearly injuring his best friend, Chioma, and a classmate, Nnamdi runs away from home and hides, so he cannot endanger anyone else, or himself. However, Chioma, after an interaction with the spirit of Nnamdi’s father, pieces together what is happening and tracks Nnamdi down. With Chioma’s support, Nnamdi learns to control his abilities, unearths who murdered his father, and faces down the local crime boss. Nnamdi is an engaging character with great big flaws to go with his great big heart. Readers will empathize as he makes mistakes along the way, whether it’s jumping to conclusions or being unable to control his rage when he is The Man. Okorafor skillfully places the reader in Nnamdi’s Nigerian town, through use of local dialect and evocative description. One can easily conjure the sounds and smells of the marketplace or Nnamdi’s home. While most of the plot threads are wrapped up by the end of the book, a few loose ends hint at a sequel, which will be eagerly anticipated.

THOUGHTS: Great for fans of myth-based literature, and ties in superbly with Kwame Mbalia’s Tristan Strong series. Unfortunately, the use of profanity may make its placement in an elementary school library problematic, leaving it with a limited audience.

Fantasy          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

YA Mystery – City of Saints & Thieves; Embassy Row Book 3

Anderson, Natalie C. City of Saints & Thieves. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2017. 978-0-399-54758-4. 401 pp. $18.99. Gr. 9 and up.

As a small child, Tina fled Congo with her mother Anju and relocated to Sangui City, Kenya. There Anju found work as a maid at the estate of Mr. Greyhill, a mining executive with questionable business dealings. She was murdered in his home office several years later, and the case was never solved. Now orphaned, Tina has nursed her thirst for revenge for years. She joins a street gang called the Goondas who provide a family of sorts and even a way to bring down Greyhill via a complicated heist. When the break-in is interrupted by Greyhill’s son, Tina’s childhood friend Michael, the two form an unlikely alliance in a quest for the truth about Anju’s murder and Extracta Mining’s role in trading conflict minerals. THOUGHTS: This powerful debut novel has an enticing premise, a richly realized setting, strong characters, and more than one big reveal. It’s got elements of a murder mystery, techno-thriller, and refugee story rolled into one wonderfully complex page-turner!

Realistic Fiction, Thriller, Murder Mystery      Amy V. Pickett, Ridley School District

 

City of Saints & Thieves takes readers on a fast-paced adventure as Tina seeks revenge on the man she has always believed killed her mother. Set in the Congo and Kenya this mystery/adventure will draw readers in as they puzzle the mystery surrounding Tina’s mother’s death and their escape from the Congo years before.

Realistic Fiction       Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District

 

Carter, Ally. Take the Key and Lock Her Up (Embassy Row Book 3). Scholastic Press, 2017. 978-0-545-65495-1. $17.99. 327 pp. Gr. 7 and up.

Grace Blakely is back in book three of Embassy Row.  After learning of her royal lineage, Grace, Alexei, and Jamie are on the run from those who want them dead (and want to arrest Alexei for murder).  When they are found by the prime minister of Adria, Grace realizes that she cannot hide forever and must return to Adria to face her future.  Of course, Grace doesn’t go quietly and first returns, although inadvertently, to the town where they lived when her mother died.  After a visit to her mother’s store, Grace, Jamie, Alexei, and Dominic find a hidden basement that holds the truth (and some secrets) to her mother’s past, death, work, and Grace and Jamie’s future.  With the help of Rosie, Noah, and Megan, Alexei and Grace set out to find the truth behind the society, the work that killed Grace’s mother, and the future of Adria.  THOUGHTS:  Take the Key and Lock Her Up is a great conclusion to another fabulous Ally Carter trilogy.  Although Grace Blakely is one of the most annoying characters in recent years, she is a strong (and annoying) female protagonist, who truly understands the world around her, but still remains (and acts) like a teenager.  Embassy Row is a must-have series for any library serving teens.

Mystery         Erin Parkinson, Beaver Area School District

 

 

 

Middle School Nonfiction – Scientists in Action (series); Child Soldier (NF GN)

robotbuilder

Scientists in Action! (series). Broomall, PA: Mason Crest, 2016. 48 p. $20.95. each. Gr. 5-8.

Cassriel, Betsy R. Robot Builders! 978-1-4222-3426-6.

Kelley, K.C. Astronauts! 978-1-4222-3418-1.

Bailey, Diane. Biomedical engineers! 978-1-42223-420-4.

Glenn, John. Civil engineers! 978-1-42223-421-1.

Kelley, K.C. Marine biologists! 978-1-42223-425-9.

Rich, Mari. Big-animal vets! 978-1-42223-419-8; Cyper spy hunters! 978-1-42223-424-2,

Sutinis, Beth. Crime scene techs! 978-1-42223-423-5.

Thompson, Clifford. Archaeologists! 978-1-42223-417-4; Climatologists. 978-1-42223-422-8.

Icons draw attention to vocabulary, research projects and text-dependent questions in this new series from Mason Crest. Text is supported with catchy headings and colorful images. Just as Star Wars inspired scientist Dr. Dennis Hong to learn about robots, this series exposes readers to careers that they may have yet to consider. Readers will learn that robots are able to help soldiers in battle, safely explore the ocean and also assist doctors with surgery. If students have a passion for space, they can learn what they can do so they are prepared to apply to become an astronaut or a scientist in the field while learning first hand experiences of space related scientists. A listing of books and websites to read and learn additional facts and a series glossary of key terms and an index conclude each book. Thoughts: The series presents the many opportunities found in science while inspiring the possibilities that students invision for their future.

Careers and Occupations; Science  Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

 

childsoldier

Humphreys, Jessica Dee and Michel Chikwanine. Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War. Illustrated by Claudia Davila. Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2015. 978-1-77138-126-0.  48 p. $17.95 Gr. 5-8.

This SLJ star reviewed graphic novel is a harrowing nonfiction memoir that provides an overview of the Democratic Republic of Congo leading up to the story beginning in 1993. Children craft their own soccer balls of paper and plastic bags. During a soccer game, rebel militia arrive. Michel is hopeful that his father, a civil rights lawyer, won’t let the rebels succeed, but there is nothing that can be stopped at the time.  The kids are taken and later cut with a knife while the rebels place “brown brown” (gunpowder and cocaine mixture) in the wound. After being blindfolded, five year old Michel is ordered to kill his best friend. The book is powerful and the resources provide ways that children can make differences in the world.   THOUGHTS: Consider cataloging this book with the graphic novels. Students that enjoy graphic novels might not find the book in the 300’s and they might gain a great deal by reading this graphic novel. This book provides a story of growing up that may be unknown to students.

NF Graphic Novel; Children and War   Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School