Maya and the Rising Dark

HMH. May 2020. 304p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781328635181.
Gr 5-7–Twelve-year-old Maya is daydreaming about summer break when time pauses and the color begins to bleed from the world. Her two friends, science-obsessed Frankie and occult-obsessed Eli, try to offer an explanation (science and ghosts, respectively) but when creatures from African folklore come to life in their South Side Chicago neighborhood and Maya’s father goes missing, the community elders finally reveal the truth: The three tweens are godlings of the Orisha, and Maya’s father is the Guardian of the Veil between worlds. With the help of her friends, Maya is determined to find her father and restore order to both worlds. Though Maya is the protagonist of this work, her community is the heart of the story and is celebrated in rich detail. Maya is fierce, observant, and unashamed of her love of comics—much like Frankie and Eli, who are similarly unapologetic of their interests. Their community is vibrant, close-knit, and diverse; neighbors spend time outside, know each other, and look out for one other. The vivid world-building, quick pace, high stakes, and steady stream of legendary African creatures keep readers engaged and invested in the tweens’ predicament.
VERDICT Mixing in hard choices, believable emotions, tough lessons, and mistakes made with the best of intentions, Barron has created a must-read tale. For fans of “Percy Jackson” who are yearning for a new pantheon, but not quite ready for Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone.

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