cover image Ikenga


Nnedi Okorafor. Viking, $16.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-593-11352-3

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.)