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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sunny, the heroine of this fantasy set in Nigeria, is teased at school and called an akata, a derogatory term for African Americans. When the class misbehaves, the teacher hits her students with a switch, and Sunny is beat up by classmates. Later, when Sunny begins to learn juju, she and her friends must confront a serial killer who has been murdering children in the neighborhood.
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What's the story?
Twelve-year-old Sunny has always been a misfit: She was born in America, but she lives in Nigeria. Her family is black, but she’s an albino. She’s an excellent soccer player, but she can’t go into the sun to play the game. Then she discovers she’s a \"free agent,\" one of the Leopard People with powerful magical abilities. As she undergoes juju training, she begins to enjoy her newfound powers. She can stand up to the bullies at school and turn herself invisible; she can even play soccer in the daytime. But then she and her friends are given an important mission: to find and stop Black Hat Otokoto, a serial killer whose victims are always children. Sunny doesn’t always make the right choices, but she is spunky and likable, and readers will share her enthusiasm as she goes through her magical training.
Is it any good?
Fantasy fans will enjoy familiar themes in a new and original setting. Just like any young magician, Sunny must learn the rules of her magic and pay the price when she breaks them -- such as when she uses her "spirit face" to scare a bullying classmate. Readers might be tempted to compare the Leopard People’s magical village of Leopard Knocks to Diagon Alley and the Zuma Festival to the Quidditch World Cup, but beyond these surface similarities to the Harry Potter series, the world and society of the Leopard People is truly unique. Sunny’s joy at learning that she is gifted in juju is palpable and makes up for the sometimes slow buildup to the culminating action-packed scenes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Leopard People earn chittim, their form of money, when they do well with their magic. How is the Leopard People's philosophy of earning money different from most people’s?
Anatov, the children’s juju teacher, tells Sunny that for Leopard People, their most powerful magic lies in qualities others may see as negative. For Sunny, her albinism, which she’s always hated, allows her to become invisible. Can you think of other so-called negative qualities that could turn into positive magic?
Sunny is severely reprimanded for using her juju powers to win a fight with a non-magic classmate who makes fun of her. Why do you think the Leopard People consider this such a serious crime?
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