cover image Shakti


SJ Sindu, illus. by Nabi H. Ali. HarperAlley, $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-309013-2; $15.99 paper ISBN 978-0-06-309011-8

In this vibrantly illustrated graphic novel by Sindu (Blue-Skinned Gods, for adults) and Ali (Babajoon’s Treasure), Indian American witch Shakti must harness her ancestral magic to defeat the dark spells plaguing her town. Shakti’s mothers—Indian American witch Rita and pregnant, magicless Terri, who reads as Black—have always warned Shakti that her magic is more volatile than Rita’s. In addition to Shakti’s connection to Durga Ma, the Hindu goddess of strength and protection, she has a special kinship to Durga Ma’s twin Kali Ma, the goddess of destruction and liberation. Though initially wary of teaching Shakti how to use her magic, they recognize she needs to learn how to defend herself after classmates inexplicably begin using dark spells to bully Shakti, her friends, and even the teachers. Alongside new best friend Xi, who is queer and cues as East Asian, Shakti learns protection spells, but the duo will need more than that to stop the dark magic. Ali’s richly colored art teems with cultural and naturalistic patterns and texture, and immersive interludes and brief asides provide expansive context into how Shakti’s nature-based magic functions. Fiercely courageous characters and a gripping narrative further elevate this exhilarating fantastical adventure. Ages 8–12. (May)