Princess Shuri of Wakanda may be just a kid, but she has invented a weather-control device. Surely this will win her the kind of respect accorded to her older brother, T’Challa. And when the sacred Soul Washing Ceremony is threatened by rain, Shuri sees her chance. Fancy tech isn’t allowed at the ceremony, but surely this is worth making an exception! But when she tries to use her invention to clear up the weather, T’Challa steps in to stop her and things go terribly wrong.
Now a frightening illness is striking people who were at the ceremony—including Shuri’s mother. Is it a curse brought on by Shuri and T’Challa for angering their ancestors? Shuri has to fix this, and she might know a way. A cure is said to lie in the fabled Heartlands and while most people don’t believe the Heartlands are real, Shuri thinks she knows how to find them. Since no one will listen to her, she’s going after the cure alone. Or she would, if T’Challa didn’t insist on following her…
This action-packed story features much younger versions of Shuri and T’Challa than we see in most Black Panther stories, but with the seeds of their adult personalities: a serious T’Challa who desperately wants to live up to his title and responsibilities, and a brilliant Shuri who loves making fun of her brother. Readers are treated to the rich backdrop of Wakanda, including technology, traditions, clothing, and more. There is also a secondary setting, the Heartlands, where over a third of the story takes place: a fantastical jungle in which Shuri and T’Challa meet strange creatures and uncover secrets about themselves and Wakanda’s history.
Our two young heroes have some typical sibling arguments and resentments, but they come through for each other when it counts. The events of this story prompt them to talk about a tough issue: Shuri only exists because her mother married their father after T’Challa’s birth mother died, leading Shuri to wonder if T’Challa resents her. This question is handled with sensitivity and warmth. The siblings clearly love and support each other, though with a hearty dose of good-humored ribbing.
There is a small amount of comic-book violence, with no blood or serious injury to anyone. The “techno-organic virus” is visually creepy, and the illness adds high stakes to the story, threatening the lives of Shuri’s mom and others. The story does not shy away from serious and emotional issues like complicated family dynamics and the importance of doing the right thing even when it might have a heavy cost.
The art is vividly colorful, with many panels flooded with pink, purple, turquoise, and other lively colors that emphasize the vibrant setting. The characters are expressive, but at different levels, suiting their personalities: exuberant Shuri has her big emotions on display, while T’Challa can be more restrained. The outfits—from ceremonial finery to casual wear to uniforms—contribute to the immersive setting, as do the various backgrounds, ranging from jungle to laboratory to the palace library.
This fun and heartfelt stand-alone story presents a kid-friendly adventure with relatable versions of two popular Marvel characters. Hand it to young fans of Black Panther and other Marvel properties.
Shuri and T’Challa: Into the Heartlands
By Roseanne Brown
Art by Claudia Aguirre, Dika Araújo, Natacha Bustos, Ellen Willcox
Scholastic GRAPHIX, 2022
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
Creator Representation: Brazilian, Ghanian-American, Mexican, Spanish, Lesbian
Character Representation: Black