cover image Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun (Onyeka #1)

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun (Onyeka #1)

Tolá Okogwu. McElderry, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-66591-261-7

Okogwu’s immersive Afrofuturist middle grade debut centers a British Nigerian girl with a blue-fire-tinged “tangle of curls, coils and kinks” that “has broken more combs [and] trashed more hair-dryers... than I can count.” In London, Onyekachi Adéyemi Adérìnólá lives with her hardworking mother, who makes her learn and repeat the Fibonacci sequence—imbued in the girl’s mind with colors, textures, and tastes—to help control her emotions. When her British Nigerian best friend Cheyenne, an anime fan with Turner’s syndrome, nearly drowns in a busy pool’s deep end, Onyeka’s feelings take over, and hair forms a bubble of safety around them both. Onyeka soon learns that she is Solari like her father, who disappeared after making a genetics breakthrough in Nigeria. To find him and learn more about her powers, she and her mother head to Lagos, seeking her father’s mentor—founder of the elite Academy of the Sun, where Solari go to learn to use their abilities. But as Onyeka navigates the new surroundings and encounters other Solari, her mother, too, disappears. In Okogwu’s vividly created Nigerian world, technology and an exploration of emotional internality interplay with a child’s literalized relationship with her hair, making for an enjoyable X-Men-leaning series starter. Ages 8–12. (June)