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Zahrah the Windseeker.

Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu Houghton Mifflin Company, September 2005, $16, ISBN 0-618-34090-4 Ages 10-13

If you are looking for book with a fantastical, classical edge, you have definitely found it in Okorafor-Mbachu's debut young adult novel. The world in which Zahrah Tsami lives is one filled with the realism of Africa and the magic of its folklore and Afro-futurism. Life on a faraway planet in the Ooni Kingdom is surreal, where the Kirki village people grow their computers from CPU seeds, walk around with small mirrors sewn into their clothing (appearance is a big deal in the Ooni Kingdom) and flower bulbs are used as candlelight.

As delightful as it all appears, Zahrah is having a rough time trying to navigate the preteen life, as she is born with "dadalocks," long sprouts of locked hair with plant vines growing in them. The elders tell her that this is a sign of strength and wisdom, but shy young Zahrah is just trying to dodge the daily teasing of her classmates. She discovers another secret about herself that she knows will only ostracize her even more: She can fly.

Her best friend, the wise and brilliant Dari, has a thirst for knowledge that sometimes leads the two down treacherous roads and opens their minds to information that the village has often considered taboo.

Okorafor-Mbachu does an amazing job of thrilling, exciting and delivering a fantasy novel, and her pacing is superb. The botanical surrealism works so well that the reader begins to wonder: Could there be a flower bulb that actually fights up a room? You will be instantly charmed by the world of the Ooni Kingdom and reminded of heavyweight, science-fiction writers like Octavia Butler, but it is classical and absurd in the style of Lewis Carroll. The reader will identify and cheer on Zahrah all the way in this outstanding novel.
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Author:Cabell, Arphelia K.
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2006
Words:313
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