cover image Crossing the Stream

Crossing the Stream

Elizabeth-Irene Baitie. Norton, $17.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-324-01709-7

All Ghanaian 12-year-old Ato Turkson wants is to visit Nnoma, “the biggest bird sanctuary in all of Africa,” which his father helped build before his death, when Ato was an infant. Now, five years after it last opened, an opportunity to visit the exclusive island arises through an environmental project competition. With his oldest friends, fearless Dzifa and obedient Leslie, Ato decides to grow vegetables with natural pesticides. Concurrently, his mother suddenly tells him he’ll visit his paternal grandmother every weekend—following five years’ estrangement. Though Ato has fond memories of Nana, his mother and the Prophet of Fire, a local spiritual leader, urge him to be wary of Nana’s witchery and porch sofa. While Ato grows closer to Nana, comforted by her stories of his father, his community grows cagey when animals and crops start to die. As Ato becomes more suspicious of the Prophet and determined to save his community, he strives to turn his concerns into courage. Baitie (The Lion’s Whisper) offers a fully fleshed, sensorially detailed narrative exploring regret and the manipulation of fears through the lens of children’s curiosity in her absorbing latest. Ages 9–12. Agents: Sarah Odedina and Deborah Ahenkorah, Accord Literary. (June)