From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Gr. 5-8. First-time novelist Okorafor-Mbachu braids elements of African tribal culture and speculative fantasy into a sprawling novel, in which one discerns shades of A Girl Named Disaster0 (1996), by Nancy Farmer and The People Could Fly0 (1985), by Virginia Hamilton (to whom this book is dedicated). Zahrah is a "dada girl" who was born with vine-entwined dreadlocks. She is also a rare Windseeker coming to uneasy terms with her ability to fly. When her best friend receives a snakebite, Zahrah must venture deeply into the Forbidden Greeny Jungle for an antidote, emerging from the ordeal "glowing with experience" as well as a new mastery over her unusual gifts. Okorafor-Mbachu's evocative setting will draw experienced fantasy readers with its heady mix of the familiar and the strange (Zahrah's people celebrate yam festivals and cultivate personal computers from "CPU seeds"), but following such wild invention, some readers may be disappointed by the more predictable rhythms of Zahrah's linear, episodic quest adventure. Still, this is a welcome addition to a genre sorely in need of more heroes and heroines of color. --Jennifer Mattson Copyright 2005 Booklist
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Gr 5-7-Zahrah was born with dadalocks-dreadlocks containing living vines. Although she lives in a world in which nature provides everything (even computers grow from seeds), being dada is cause for scorn. Then she discovers that it also means that she can call the wind and fly. She and her friend Dari enter the Forbidden Greeny Jungle that borders their kingdom to explore her powers, but when he is bitten by a poisonous snake, Zahrah must set off alone in search of an elgort egg to save him. Her adventures are full of encounters with talking animals and peril; unfortunately, the excitement is dulled because readers know that everything will be fine from the start. References to Alice in Wonderearth abound (to Zahrah, Earth is a legend), and some of her journey (particularly advice received from a pink frog reminiscent of the Cheshire Cat) seems like an attempt to create an Africa-infused Alice tale. There are also nods to Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (S & S, 1981) that are unlikely to resonate with the intended audience. The world-building is interesting, and Zahrah's journey to self-acceptance is obvious but satisfying; the important theme of exploring, rather than fearing, the unknown is heavy-handed. Because there is little African science fiction written for young readers, comparisons with Nancy Farmer's The Ear, the Eye and the Arm (Scholastic, 1994) are inevitable, but this story lacks much of the complexity of Farmer's work.-Karyn N. Silverman, Elizabeth Irwin High School, New York City (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.