My first impression was there is a girl, in an African wrapper, slashing the air with a knife and abstract symbols sketched in the background. On my first glance, I wasn’t sure what the girl on the cover is doing? I see the cover, and I’m instantly like..hmm what is this about?
After reading the book, I realize the cover is very fitting with Sunny’s albino skin and Nigerian background. The colors are on the pastel side, even though I was expecting something more bolder, because African prints, but I don’t think the pastel colors take away from the cover. Then again the pastel could reflect Sunny’s alibinism.
I just want to take a brief moment of appreciation for this gorgeous, kinky, perfectly-round ‘fro on Akata’s head.
Great job, graphics team.
The last element on the cover that caught my attention about this cover is very important. The element is a quote from Ursula K. Le Guin, who is a science fiction heavyweight (The EarthSea Cycle anyone?). Le Guin says about Okorafor’s work, “There’s more imagination in a page of Nnedi Okorafor’s work than in whole volumes of fantasy epics.”
After reading that quote, I knew Akata Witch was ‘bout to be good.
Sunny is a Nigerian-American young girl of Igbo descent who has moved back to Nigeria with her family. Sunny is different because she is albino, and as a result, is subjected to teasing at school amongst her non-albino Nigerian classmates. Not only does Sunny’s skin make her different, but Sunny discovers that she is part of a special group of people – The Leopard People, a secret society of Nigerian people with magical powers.
Sunny’s friend’s, Orlu and Chichi, are also of The Leopard people and they all go through training together to learn how to master their magical skills. After their training, their final test is to defeat a powerful ritual killer, named Black Hat Otokoto, a Leopard person gone bad, who is killing young Nigerian children. Sunny, Orlu, and Chichi defeat him, but soon realize that he was paving the way to unleash something more evil than himself.
The book ends with us anticipating that the threesome will meet up and defeat Black Hat’s boss in subsequent books (please be books). Trust me, I’m ret’ to see what goes down.
Fall 2016 when Book 2 is scheduled to be released can’t come soon enough!
In my mind, I’m an honorary Ghanaian, since my husband is from Ghana, and I love that this takes place in Nigeria! Sunny’s mannerisms are so West African, so Nigerian! I can hear her saying ‘Idiots!” (Id-che-uts!) to describe her antagonizers at school.
Okorafor captures the spirit of Nigeria marvelously from the descriptions in the text of Nigerian school life to the unspoken awe of the supernatural to even the dismissive tone of Sunny’s book that teaches her the ‘history’ of the Leopard book. I love it!
Furthermore, Ms. Okorafor does a masterful job showing the tension between a young Sunny and her father. That same tension is noticeably absent in the relationships between Sunny’s father and her brothers. I like how readers see Sunny try to make sense of the relationship with her dad. How Sunny makes sense of this relationship is spot on by my girl Nnedi (because in my mind we’re officially best friends or at least pen pals who don’t send each other letters.)
Ultimately, I like how Ms. Okorafor explores ‘juju fantasy,’ and I’m interested to see how she’ll continue to contribute to this genre specifically and the science fiction genre as a whole.
- Self-Esteem – Sunny has to deal with people who just don’t like her because of her skin. She’s also different from her classmates because she used to live in America, then she has to deal with people who don’t like her because she’s smart. Sunny has all these negative layers, like onions, that she’s dealing with, but she ain’t having it with her classmates’ foolery. She may get sad occasionally, but I like how she overcomes the negativity by taking up for herself and setting her classmates straight.
- Women’s Roles in Nigeria – Sunny’s independent spirit worries her mother and troubles her father, especially since a serial killer who kills children is loose. Sunny knows something is going on because her parents are always whispering something when she comes around, but stop once they see her. Sunny can’t figure out why they won’t talk to her. She knows something is going on, but by the end of the book she discovers that her grandmother was an influential Leopard person, and her journey as a Leopard Person begins to make more sense.
I found it endearing that Sunny is an excellent football,or soccer, player, and consistently gives the boys she plays against trouble in defending her. The fact Sunny is playing football and not doing chores around the house is refreshing.
I also like how Chichi and her mother’s queendom are juxtaposed to Sunny’s family life. Needless to say, there are lots of questions worth exploring about women’s roles in the text.
- Geography – Sunny and her friends are moving all over Nigeria and the magic world, a great way to learn about the country if you look up the references. You really should look up the references.
- West African Living- Most people don’t know what to expect when thinking about African day-to-day living. I think Ms. Nnedi does an excellent job of showing that people in Africa are not just the poor, starving people on TV, but they eat everyday and have nice houses, and do regular things that Americans do. The author does a fabulous job of giving people with no introduction to West Africa, or Africa period, a taste of Nigerian culture.
- Imagination!! – Y’all know how I feel about imagination. If a young reader can imagine a totally different world, like Ms. Okorafor has created, imagine how this same child can put that imagination to use in imagining a better world for their future, which is the first step for progress.
This book will definitely keep tweens engaged, especially if they like Harry Potter. If you can handle Harry Potter, you can handle this book. Because Akata features a female lead, African lead, unapologetically set in Africa, readers will learn and enjoy the story at the same time.
I highly recommend this book because it’s innovative and diverse, and I hope they make a movie out of it! Even if they don’t, a house DJ, DJ Funke, created a track for the book, and I’m here for it. (Yes, DJ Funke is awesome for creating this track, and even more awesome in a live setting, I’m a witness!)
Here it is for your listening while reading pleasure.