The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Summary:  11-year-old Kofi has a good life as part of his West African community.  He finds his English-speaking teacher pretentious but likes to learn and enjoys hanging out with friends at school, especially Ama, the girl he has a crush on.  His cousin is his rival, and Kofi is preparing for a swimming race between the two of them that may determine his future with Ama.  When his older brother Kwasi accidentally kills a prince in a wrestling match, life begins to take some dark turns.  The prince’s family kidnaps both Kwasi and Kofi; Kofi is eventually shackled and crowded onto a ship (the door of no return) with others to be taken away from their homes.  A plot twist in the end leaves the readers in suspense, preparing the way for the next book in this planned trilogy.  Includes a Twi glossary and guide to Adinkra symbols that appear in the book.  432 pages; grades 6-9.

Pros:  Kwame Alexander has produced another masterpiece novel in verse that is sure to win some awards.  The transition from Kofi’s life in Africa to his captivity is stark, violent, and may be disturbing to younger or more sensitive kids, but the whole story adds so many important dimensions to the narrative of slavery.

Cons:  The story takes place in 1860, which seemed late to me.  I thought the slave trade ended well before that.  I wish there had been more historical notes at the end to explain what was going on at that time.

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