Written by Daniel José Older
Sierra Santiago was looking forward to a fun summer of making art, hanging out with her friends, and skating around Brooklyn. But then a weird zombie guy crashes the first party of the season. Sierra’s near-comatose Abuelo begins to say “No importa” over and over. And when the graffiti murals in Bed-Stuy start to weep . . . Well, something stranger than the usual New York mayhem is going on.
Sierra soon discovers a supernatural order called the Shadowshapers, who connect with spirits via paintings, music, and stories. Her grandfather once shared the order’s secrets with an anthropologist, Dr. Jonathon Wick, who turned the Caribbean magic to his own foul ends. Now Wick wants to become the ultimate Shadowshaper by killing all the others, one by one. With the help of her friends and the hot graffiti artist Robbie, Sierra must dodge Wick’s supernatural creations, harness her own Shadowshaping abilities, and save her family’s past, present, and future.
Primary Source Pairing:
The murals come to life in this fantastical story set in Brooklyn. Sierra and her friends venture into the world of shadows and spirits as she explores her family’s gift of shadowshaping. For this primary source analysis, check out the Self-Guided Brooklyn Graffiti Tour on the offMetro website. Invite students to explore each mural and find one that speaks to them and makes a connection to the text in Shadowshaper. One of the many intricate and beautiful murals is included above.
Questions for Discussion:
- What do you notice first?
- What people and objects are shown?
- How are they arranged?
- What is the physical setting?
- What’s happening in the image?
- What tools were used to create this?
- How would this mural “react” to the shadowshaping skills of Sierra and Robbie?
Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Bushwick Street Art: offMetro.com
Self-Guided Brooklyn Graffiti Tour on the offMetro website