cover image One Shadow on the Wall

One Shadow on the Wall

Leah Henderson. Atheneum, $16.99 (448p) ISBN 978-1-4814-6295-2

Life in Mor’s Senegalese village gets increasingly difficult after the 11-year-old and his two sisters are orphaned and threatened with separation. When their home is raided by the Danka Boys, Mor debates joining the gang, which offers food and security. Through tight, polished sentences and a smattering of regional vocabulary, debut novelist Henderson believably evokes the harsh realities of the impoverished seaside village and the resilience of its residents. The storytelling, though, can get bogged down amid a languid pace and lengthy sections of exposition; Henderson’s penchant for brevity at the sentence level isn’t reflected in the work as a whole. But Mor’s indomitable spirit, love for his family, and refusal to give up make him a fascinating and well-rounded protagonist, even if “he was still just a boy in his baay’s sandals.” And although the disembodied voice of Mor’s father offers guidance from beyond the grave, it’s an unlikely friendship with an outcast that provides a flesh-and-blood father figure to teach and watch over the boy. Ages 8–12. Agent: Melissa Nasson, Rubin Pfeffer Content. (June)