Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu begins with these words:
When I was born, my mother took one look at me and laughed.
“She’s… dada,” said the doctor, looking surprised.
“I can see that,” my mother replied with a smile.
Zahrah has dadalocks, clumps of hair inside of which grow “skinny, light green vine[s].” It’s an unusual, misunderstood trait in Zahra’s kingdom. Many people think it’s associated with strange powers. To avoid prejudice, Zahrah could cut her dadalocks; instead, she grows them down her back. Her hair is heavy, but as her mother has taught her, “it forces me to hold my head up higher.”
Nevertheless, Zahrah is self-conscious. She knows that she different from other children. As she explains:
In Kirki, where fear of the unknown was strong and where so much of the past had been pushed aside and forgotten, my dada hair was like a big red badge on my forehead that said, “I don’t fit in and never will.
Zahrah the Windseeker is a middle grade novel for children who sometimes feel like they don’t fit in. It’s for children who haven’t yet learned how to embrace the unique qualities that make them special. It’s also for adults, because, quite frankly, no one is too old for a gentle reminder to appreciate themselves.
Zahrah the Windseeker is an engaging fantasy novel featuring the friendship between Zahrah and a boy named Dari, who suffers a medical emergency after he and Zahrah venture into the dangerous jungle. Zahra can save him, but only if she learns to harness her powers. To do that, Zahrah must learn to accept herself and push beyond her boundaries. She cannot fear the unknown.
This is another important lesson for my twins, who are shy and rarely take risks. Meanwhile, my youngest, an extroverted, reckless child, needs the opposite lesson. Following Zahrah’s example, she would probably think it’s just fine to explore the woods by herself. But she’s only five and won’t be reading this book anytime soon. When she does, hopefully after she’s learned how to assess risks more appropriately, I hope she’ll enjoy this novel as much as her sisters did.
Here are their thoughts:
Samira: Zahrah the Windseeker is about a girl who must save her friend. I liked it because Misty the Gorilla takes care of Zahrah when she’s sick (though I probably shouldn’t have told you that). There is nothing I did not like about this book. Go read it!
Maram: Zahrah the Windseeker is about a girl named Zahrah and her friend Dari. Dari gets sick, and Zahrah needs to save him. My favorite character is the speckled pink frog that can be annoying but is also wise. Wise people are annoying sometimes. There wasn’t anything I didn’t like about this book, but I wanted to know more about where the town is located and how it got there. I wanted to know more about its relationship to Earth.
I read Zahrah the Windseeker because my daughters recommended it to me (after Akilah from The Englishist recommended it for them). It was a worthwhile read.