Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor

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Recommended by Erin Harrington (@eeharrington4)

Form and genre: Novel, magical realism

Length: 235 pages

Summary: After Nnamdi’s father, the chief of police, is killed, Nnamdi is eager to take down the person responsible. A mysterious gift gives him incredible powers to put a stop to the criminal ring in his city–if he can control them.

Age recommendation and challenging content: Year7 – this is an accessible read for pleasure, but not challenging enough for a class study.

The book begins with the father being killed, but it is reported, not depicted. In general, there is violence/fighting in the book, but not graphic (think Disney movie violence, not Marvel movie violence).

Notable reasons for recommending this book:

Ikenga would be an excellent book to introduce the concept of magical realism, to scaffold more challenging texts that students may encounter in that genre later on.

I also loved the way that Nnamdi’s experience with the ikenga mirrored the emotional experience of many “tweens” on the cusp of puberty. He feels so intensely–especially anger–without quite knowing why or how to control it. Ikenga could be a helpful vehicle for conversations about students’ emotional development and struggles in the 10-12 age range.

Other useful information: The book is set in present-day Nigeria, and Ikenga are part of Igbo traditions.

#ownvoices Nnedi Okorafor was born and raised in the US by her Igbo Nigerian parents.