Review of Ikenga

Ikenga
by Nnedi Okorafor
Intermediate, Middle School    Viking    229 pp.    g
8/20    978-0-593-11352-3    $16.99

His father, the police chief, is dead, and eleven-year-old Nnamdi knows who murdered him — the Chief of Chiefs, an infamous criminal in their Nigerian province. Vowing to bring justice, Nnamdi is unsure how to proceed until a supernatural encounter on the day of his father’s memorial celebration leaves him in possession of an artifact known as an Ikenga, a “place of strength.” With the Ikenga, Nnamdi gains the ability to shapeshift into a seven-foot-tall shadowy being who carries a strength — and a rage — similar to his favorite comic-book character, the Incredible Hulk. Simply nicknamed “The Man” by the local newspaper, Nnamdi becomes a crime-fighting vigilante. But as The Man’s anger threatens to consume him (including a violent confrontation with his best friend), Nnamdi is also running out of time to fulfill his promise of bringing his father’s murderer to justice. The story puts its readers on a roller coaster of action as Nnamdi battles to harness his newfound power as a tool for good. Peppering her work with Igbo phrases, folklore, and local pop references, Okorafor (Akata Witch, rev. 5/11; Akata Warrior, rev. 9/17) succeeds in imbuing West African culture throughout the origin story of a memorable new superhero.

From the November/December 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Eboni Njoku
Eboni Njoku is a children’s librarian at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library Branch of the DC Public Library.

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