Guest Post: Tọlá Okogwu
Owning Your Power – A Journey of Self-Acceptance
Onyeka’s Journey of Self-Acceptance
Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun is about twelve-year-old Onyeka. A girl whose out of control hair makes her stand out. When she discovers she has superpowers after saving her best friend, her mother reveals that she’s actually a Solari – a genetically enhanced human. She whisks Onyeka off to a futuristic Nigeria and a secret high-tech school for Solari called the academy of the sun. There, Onyeka learns to control her newfound powers whilst making new friends and uncovering family secrets. She must also find the courage to defeat a deadly foe that threatens her family and the future of all Solari.
There are many themes within Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun, from managing emotions to managing relationships and my favourite, identity and belonging – all themes that sit well within PSHE. Onyeka’s journey is very much one of self-acceptance and in fact, the idea for the story came from this simple thought:
‘What if a girl discovered that the very thing she thinks of as a weakness, is in fact her greatest strength?’
Whilst I’ve wrapped this question up in supernatural packaging, the answer is one that I think is relevant to the ordinary world. We all have something about us that we’re not entirely happy with and perhaps want to change. Often, these beliefs stem not from within, but from the noise of our external environment. So in Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun I ask some simple questions. What would happen if we removed ourselves from these negative environments? How would that effect the way we view ourselves? We can find answers somewhere within Onyeka’s resulting adventures so let’s take a closer look.
Finding a positive perspective
On page five, we see Onyeka describing her hair. She talks about the way her mum views her hair and we see how her mother’s perspective and Onyeka’s negative salon experiences colour her feelings about her hair. But then, at the end of her description, there is a brief moment where Onyeka talks about the colour of her hair and we catch a glimpse of another perspective. One that is more positive and perhaps more reflective of her true feelings.
It raises questions about how we can be influenced by the views of others and how they can shape and impact the way we view ourselves. On page 23 we see Onyeka verbalise this when she notes that it’s other people’s reaction to her hair that bothers her the most. Fast forward to pages 165-167, where Adanna helps braid Onyeka’s hair and we begin to see how the change in Onyeka’s environment once again impacts the way she views her hair, though in a more positive way. And again on pages 216-217 at the market where Onyeka encounters a little girl who has a strong reaction to her hair. These moments make for great discussion points and additional questions can include:
- How do you think Onyeka’s desire to fit in affects her personality and how she thinks of herself?
- What does belonging mean to you?
- What kind of things can make people feel like they don’t belong?
- Do you feel you have to hide or change a part of yourself so you don’t stand out?
Owning Your Power
Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun is a thrilling, action packed story about accepting yourself as you are and owning your power. I believe we all have a superpower inside of us. Something that makes us special, unique, and maybe even a little…different! My hope has always been that Onyeka’s journey to discovering her power, will help others discover theirs too.
For further exploration, here are four brilliant books about identity:
Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun was shortlisted for Children’s Book of the Year: Breakthrough Category in the recent Week Junior Book Awards.
Read our panel’s review of Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun for more information about the book.