Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that should absolutely be put at the top of your TBR pile. Recommended books will vary across genre and age category and include shiny new books, older books you may have missed, and some classics I suggest finally getting around to.
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Today’s pick is a new middle grade fantasy that is inspired by African and Diaspora mythology and folklore.
Abeni’s Song by P. Djèlí Clark
It’s the middle of the night and there seems to be some kind of pied piper situation where there is music that is enchanting and luring away all the children of a village. Someone cries out about the children being stolen and then the book takes us elsewhere.
It is the morning of the Harvest Festival which is also the day that Abeni celebrates her birthday. She is 12, not yet grown, but almost. After she gets ready, she goes outside and her mother tells her the story of her birth, which Abeni is tired of hearing. When Abeni’s mother was pregnant with her, it was a very dry season and there hadn’t been much rain. They were worried about the pregnancy and the village healer sent Abeni’s father to see the old woman. Most of the adults call her the old woman but the children of the village call her a witch. She lived in the forest and hadn’t come to the village in a long, long time. She gave Abeni’s father a ritual to perform to help bring Abeni out and apparently it worked because Abeni was born and also, it rained for the first time in a long, long while. Because of this, folks in the village call Abeni “little rain bringer.”
The Harvest Festival begins and it’s fun and exciting and loud until suddenly, everyone falls silent. The witch has come walking out of the forest toward everyone. She had warned them to leave, that something very dangerous is coming but the adults in the village did not take heed and they’re basically ignoring her. She tells them she can no longer protect the village and she has come to collect her payment for protecting the village all these years. Her payment is to be one of the village’s children. The villagers deny her this and say they will protect themselves and start gearing up for war. Abeni’s mother goes to try to negotiate with the witch and ends up saying that the witch can take Abeni. The village is suddenly under attack by terrifying creatures that snatch up all the adults and lure away all the children. The witch is only able to save Abeni.
And this is just the beginning.
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That’s it for now, book-lovers!
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