A New Perspective on Adventuring in Fantasy Lands

The Call to Shakabaz, by Amy Wachspress, is a children’s fantasy adventure of a different color, many different colors in fact. The book is set in an African American cultural context and all the characters in the book are Black, or Black mixed in with other vibrant hues. There are almost no books for children and young adults in the fantasy adventure genre with any Black characters, let alone a whole book featuring them. The book is also unusual in that it does not depend on the typical Anglo-Saxon imagery to make it magical and it does not rely on a gory violent battle scene to resolve the central conflict. Instead, the book demonstrates the fundamental principles of nonviolence as practiced by Dr. King and Gandhi.

Launched on King Day, 2007 to a standing-room-only crowd at Mendocino Book Company in Ukiah, California, the book won an iParenting Media Award within two weeks of its release. The author has been featured in interviews on The Bev Smith Show (syndicated to radio stations nationwide) and Just One More Book (an Ontario-based children’s books website). Bob Spear at Heartland Reviews has identified the book as a recommended title for reluctant readers because it is high interest, and he nominated it for a BookSense Pick. Cheshire Bookshop owner Linda Rosengarten in Fort Bragg writes:  “The Call to Shakabaz is one of those rare books with cross-generational appeal. Readers of all ages will not be able to put this novel down, right through to the unexpected, magical climax. For those looking for the perfect book while waiting for that final Harry Potter fantasy, The Call to Shakabaz provides a completely satisfying read, with a refreshing approach to the fantasy genre.”

Wachspress sidesteps many of the usual conventions and offers original resolutions to a variety of sticky situations. When the recently orphaned Goodacre children are transported to the land of Faracadar, they must discover and develop their special gifts and talents, which require that they exercise ingenuity, creativity, and compassion. Fourteen-year-old Doshmisi and her younger siblings Denzel, Maia, and Sonjay are given the task of retrieving the powerful Staff of Shakabaz from the evil enchanter Sissrath. They travel through a colorful landscape with their Faracadaran guide and their Aunt Alice’s clever, pesky, and often hilarious parrot, Bayard Rustin. The adventurers must contend with many obstacles and foes, including a giant sea serpent spewing green goo, skeeter birds with uncanny eyesight, the smelliest man in the land (named Compost), the deadly mountain geebachings (who cause their victims to laugh themselves to death), as well as Sissrath himself and his minions (who shoot deadly poison darts at their enemies). Assistance is provided to them along the way by the griot, the high chief and his clever daughter, talking whales, ancient trees, drummers, inventors, butterflies, wolves, tigers, and the peculiar sprites who live underground in the hills.

The book offers a refreshingly different perspective on adventuring in make-believe lands and challenges young readers to reconsider the nature of violence and how we resolve conflict. When the last page turns and the dust clears, this book will inspire readers to think and think again. For more information visit


Title: The Call to Shakabaz

Author:  Amy Wachspress

Publisher:  Woza Books

ISBN:  978-0-9788350-2-6

Trade Paperback; 6 x 9; 272 pages; $15.50

Distributed by Baker & Taylor and Follett Library Resources

Printed on 100% recycled paper as part of the Green Initiative

Publication Date:  January 15, 2007

Available in audio book format from Legacy Audio Books

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