￼#BlackGirlMagic: Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston – Review by Alex Harrison
Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop gained more notoriety in the literacy world for her concept of books being windows that offer readers a view of an unfamiliar world, sliding glass doors that are a portal to an untapped imaginative world, or mirrors that reflect personal experiences. With recent book bans across the country, it is important for literacy educators and librarians to understand and preach the importance of books that are representative of our students or offer them the opportunity to view the world from someone else’s perspective.
Twenty-years ago as a gifted Black girl in elementary school, I could not find myself represented in the texts that were offered in classrooms, bookstores, or libraries – the selection was limited. Although I loved fantasy, my options for finding a book with a Black girl as the protagonist were slim to none. Amari and the Night Brothers was the book I needed as a kid to show me that Black girls could be magical.
Thirteen-year-old Amari Peters is distraught over her brother Quinton’s recent disappearance. Her brother Quinton was a light in her world. And now that he is gone, Amari has found herself in trouble and fighting as a reprieve against her anger leaves her with a trip to the principal’s office and a suspension from school. With another infraction under her belt, Amari is also fearful of her scholarship being revoked, her one ticket to a quality education.
While at home enduring out of school suspension time, Amari checks her missing brother’s email and soon discovers a vanishing email that leads her to a mysterious package at her doorstep. How could it be that the package delivered is from her missing brother Quinton? Inside of the package is a briefcase containing information that she needs to make it to the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, a place that her brother was secretively involved with.
Originally, she thought Quinton was a type of spy, a joke they shared, but a promise that he vowed to share with her once she got older. Her gifted brother who graduated valedictorian from high school, had full ride scholarships and offers from two prestigious Ivy League schools but declined these opportunities to embark on an adventure unbeknownst to his mom and Amari, despite their tight-knit family dynamics.
Without having Quinton around, Amari struggles to understand why he wants her to try out for the top-secret Bureau of Supernatural Affairs. Determined to find him and believing that the tryout will help her locate Quinton, Amari realizes she is going to have to believe in herself if she embarks on a new journey working with the Bureau.
Amari has no idea of the magic that she possesses, but her entry into the magical world pushes her further than she could have imagined. Navigating through the magical realm proves to be a bit of a challenge for her when she quickly discovers that the other kids have known about the magical world and their powers their entire lives. It also does not help that Bureau trainees have a talent that intensifies to supernatural levels to allow them to do their jobs. Amari is stunned to learn that her illegal abilities exist and feels even more discouraged when the magical world treats her differently because of her natural magic.
Now there is a powerful, evil magician who has come to threaten the supernatural world as it exists. Without her brother’s encouragement, away from her mom, and in a new world where she does not fit in, Amari feels alone and out of place. Of course, she wants to go home, but leaving the magical world means giving up and being unable to find out what happened to Quinton.
Alston’s debut novel has become a hit in my fourth-grade classroom, being passed from one excited student to another. At the conclusion of the novel, each kid has the same sentiment, Amari and the Night Brothers is a must read, and we cannot wait for the sequel!
Alex Harrison is a second-generation educator who currently teaches fourth grade at the same school she attended as a child. She is a doctoral student at the University of Houston-Clear Lake majoring in Educational Administration with a concentration in Reading.