The Door of No ­Return

Little, Brown. Sept. 2022. 432p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316441865.
Gr 5 Up–The beginning of a planned trilogy set in western Africa in 1860, the latest offering from Newbery winner Alexander introduces readers to Kofi Offin. His experiences are a window to what life would have been like for a boy growing up in that specific place and time. He has a crush on Ama. He loves his grandfather’s stories. He has learned English in school but speaks Twi with his family and friends. His cousin bullies him and he challenges him to a swimming race. When Kofi’s brother accidentally kills his opponent in a wrestling match, the gentle verse narrative is disrupted because the family of the dead wrestler captures Kofi and his brother. They take them away from their village to the coast; Kofi goes through the door of no return and is put on a boat where things get very bad very quickly. The cliff-hanger ensures that future volumes will tackle the rest of Kofi’s story. Books with enslaved main characters certainly exist in juvenile fiction, but the reality of the transatlantic slave trade hasn’t been so adeptly captured for young readers to date. This important book is ideal for classroom discussion; shelve alongside Sharon Draper’s Copper Sun and Julius Lester’s Day of Tears.
VERDICT Told in Alexander’s lyrical and masterly style, this gritty and compelling novel of Kofi’s life should be included in all library collections that serve young readers.

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