“One night, after the power went out, I lit a candle as usual. Then, also as usual, I got down on the floor and just gazed at its flame.
My candle was white and thick, like the ones in church. I lay on my belly and just stared and stared into it. So orange, like the abdomen of a firefly. It was nice and soothing until…it started flickering.
Then, I thought I saw something. Something serious and big and scary. I moved closer.”
Akata Witch is told through the eyes of Sunny, a twelve-year-old albino girl born in the United States, but who now finds herself living in Nigeria. Not surprisingly, Sunny is often seen as an outcast. An outcast at school because of where she was born and how she looks. An outcast in the community because of her lack of knowledge about Nigerian culture. Even an outcast at home because she is a girl, an unwanted girl.
Sunny’s days are filled with trying to navigate school, prejudices, staying out of the way of bullies, and not upsetting her parents. Especially her father. This changes when she befriends a quiet boy in her class named Orlu and his friend Chichi. Slowly Orlu and Chichi introduce Sunny to their world of Nigerian magic, and she learns she is in fact a leopard person; Nigerians who can conjure and perform juju (magic). Soon Sunny is visiting mysterious villages where books and devices for creating juju are purchased, disappearing through keyholes, and accepting challenges issued by their leopard person teacher.
Sunny is equal parts fascinated, terrified, and frustrated by her new life and what she is learning about herself, her family’s past, and the challenges she will need to face when charged with finding and defeating Black Hat Otokoto. The man responsible for kidnapping and maiming children in order to gain powerful juju strength.
Okorafor crafts a well paced suspenseful narrative that provides readers needed background knowledge by enlisting excerpts from the “Free Agents” handbook that Sunny reads to learn about her newfound abilities. If you have readers in your class who enjoy supernatural fiction and want to try something new, Akata Witch, the first book in the Nsibidi Script series may just be a great book fit.
To read more about Nnedi Okorafor, Akata Witch and the sequels Akata Warrior and Akata Woman click here.