26th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards:

Below is a brief commentary for your entry in the 26th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards, thank you for your participation!

Entry Title: Nyira and the Invisible Boy: The Graveyard Club, Book I
Author: Kenneth Harrell
Judge Number: 68
Entry Category: Middle-Grade/Young Adult books

A few quick notes~

• Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”.
• The 1-5 scale is strictly to provide a point of reference; the scores are meant only to be a gauge, and are not a cumulative score, nor are they tallied or used in ranking.
• A “0” is not a negative score. Our online review system only recognizes numerals during this portion of logging evaluations.As a result, we’ve substituted a “0” in place of “N/A” when the particular portion of the evaluation simply does not apply to the particular entry, based on the entry genre. For example, a book of poetry, a cookbook, or a travel guide would not necessarily have a “Plot and Story Appeal, and may therefore receive a “0” – indicating that the rating was not applicable.
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Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 4

Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5

Production Quality and Cover Design: 4

Plot and Story Appeal: 4

Character Appeal and Development: 4

Voice and Writing Style: 5

Judge’s Commentary*:

The description, the setting, and the level of depth internally and externally are excellent. As a reader we feel immersed in this world even though in some ways it is so different. And sadly, we can still relate to the effects of good and evil, compassion and vengeance. Since it is multi-layered, it does require a willingness to read slowly and be immersed in the stories. One problem I had from the beginning was trying to define the story question or main plot direction. The back blurb gave some indication, but since Nyira and Enriquillo don’t connect until the middle of the book, there is a bit of a hole. I kept thinking of her father’s statement, “You’ll know when it’s time to let them take you.” I wondered if perhaps she should also think on that as she was shifted from place to place to wonder if this next situation was still a part of her father’s advice. She obviously tries to consider his attitude toward finding good in others, and I like that Benzia also warned her about being considered property. Once in a while a more modern word shows up (like “vehicle”) but the overall world breathes its time frame naturally. Very glad to hear this is a series in progress.


Amazon.com:

After reading the description and seeing the extraordinary cover on Goodreads giveaways, I purchased a copy of Nyira and the Invisible Boy. I considered it a must read and buying it was my best option. Somewhat later, the author contacted me and requested a review. I voluntarily agreed to provide one.The invisible boy of the title, Enriquillo, is a Taino. Wikipedia and numerous other sources will tell you that the Taino were extinct by the 18th century, but Taino genes certainly survive in contemporary Haiti and Puerto Rico. There are also numerous Taino cultural survivals. So could there have been secret villages of Taino hiding in the mountains, as we see in Harrell’s book? We don’t know for certain. This is also a fantasy novel that involves paranormal gifts. I am willing to suspend disbelief for the sake of a good story, and this is a humdinger of a tale.I believe that the cooperation of Africans and Taino symbolized by the relationship of Nyira and Enriquillo is laying the ground for the future revolution in Haiti. This is Haiti as I’ve never seen it before. Despite the horrors and degradations of slavery, I found Nyira and the Invisible Boy inspiring. I consider it the best indie book that I’ve read in the first half of 2018.

L. Frankel (5 out of 5 stars)


Amazon.com:

love the cover of this book! Wow! I thought by looking at it I would be treated to a children’s fun fantasy tale but that was certainly not the case. This is an interesting African tale with very deep dark aspects of life highlighted throughout the story. Only a couple of quick happy moments, very fleeting, and the rest is very dark and depressing. Death, slavery, capture, slave boats, treatment of slaves, superstition of the church of witches and how they beat and killed them. The constant loss of family and friends, home, culture, name, language, etc. Deep and moving book hidden in a fable. Hard to read all at one time. The book ended abruptly, my only complaint.

Montzalee Wittman (4.4 out of 5 stars)


Amazon.com:

Starting this book honestly reminded me of Tarzan. Lol but it is honestly the only book of it’s kind.

I enjoyed reading this book so much. It was wonderfully written. If the story doesn’t suck you in, the writing will for sure! Though I promise, the writing will keep you hooked.

The only issue I had was the mass load of characters. It was hard to keep up with who was who especially since most of them had hard names lol. While yes, there were to many characters, I really enjoyed getting to read this amazing book.

Also, I feel like the death scenes were a little too graphic for this to be middle grade. Personally, I would label this Young Adult.

Reviews of a FearStreetZombie (4.4 out of 5 stars)


Amazon.com:

Loved this book. For me it is reminiscent of The Jungle book, but more profound. It is about the power of love, family, and friendship, and the sacrifices we make to protect those we love. It is about fearing what we don’t understand, and deriving hatred from that misunderstanding. It is about the atrocity of slavery, and those who impose their will on others. Most of all it is about the search for ultimate freedom and the price that each of us would pay to obtain it.

April Wright (5 out of 5 stars)


Amazon.com:

This was a fantastic start of what promises to be an enchanting series. Nyira and Enriquillo are well developed and likeable characters, and the story is unique and imaginative. I am really looking forward to the second book.

Sharpton (4.4 out of 5 stars)


Amazon.com:

Strikingly original and very well-written, Nyira and the Invisible Boy is a wholly enjoyable read!

aweatherbee (5 out of 5 stars)


Amazon.com:

Nyira and the Invisible Boy is a tale rich in characters, culture, and a plot that is quick-moving. Readers of all ages will be pulled into the story. This tale is so original and unique: I truly haven’t read anything like it. It brings to mind classic literature for young people and adults alike, so it is a refreshing new piece of children’s literature. I enjoyed the magical realms that were woven into the story and the characters. I don’t always enjoy books with that quality, but the author weaves a tale with characters that are believable and a setting that is rich in detail. It ended rather abruptly, but I thoroughly enjoyed the first in this series so I am anticipating the next one.

David (4.4 out 5 stars)


Amazon.com:

Nyira is a seven-year-old healer who hid in the jungle and watched as slave hunters burned down her village. Devastated she ventures deeper into the jungle where she befriends a gorilla and his family before being captured and put on a slave ship destined for Haiti.Ten-year-old “invisible boy” Enriquillo’s tribe is hidden in the Haitian Mountains for hundreds of years. After his father and friend are murdered, he vows revenge. In the village he meets Nyira and realizes that she is the dark princess who is destined to be his future queen. They form a bond and together try and help the people in their lives find peace and freedom. When Nyira’s magical and healing capabilities are discovered, she is in great danger and Enriquillo and his tribe must help to save her and their friends.The cover of the book is beautiful, but the story has some dark and haunting scenes with glimpses of light. The book deals with heavy subject matter such as death, slavery, being torn from your family, abuse, fighting, and loss of culture. The lighter side of the book deals with friendship, what makes a family, loyalty and love. Of course, there is magic, healing and invisibility in this book as well! The parts dealing with magic and healing feel very natural to the story and helped show Nyira’s personality as she used her magic for good and to help people.There are a lot of characters in this book which also has the main plot and subplots going on. The characters in this book are unique and have their own distinct personalities and issues which they are facing. The Author was kind enough to provide a glossary of characters, but I found it very easy to keep track of everyone and didn’t need to utilize the glossary. Younger readers may benefit from the glossary of characters.This book does end with the reader wanting to know what happens next for the characters and it appears as if this is the first book in the series, so keep your eyes peeled for the next in the series. I found this book to be enjoyable and must give it props for being original and unique. The two young characters are likable and readers will root for them!

Debra Cohen (4.4 out 5 stars)


Goodreads:

I won this book on Goodreads for an honest review. Thank you so much for sending me this book!! I loved it!! I look forward to reading more from this author and about the Graveyard Club. This is a smart well thought out story. It flows easily and was enjoyable to read! The characters are very well crafted and the story is intriguing and well thought out. There is plenty to keep you totally engrossed in this book, the author has a way of telling this story that really grabs you and makes you feel all kinds of emotions. I LOVE our main character and her friend, I found myself crying and cringing at times. This is a wonderful read and I highly recommend it to anyone that loves a good story with lots of heart.

Tobyann Aparisi (Five stars)


Goodreads:

Omgosh I can not give this book enough praise. I have no clue how K.M was able to make Nyira so loving. I can say if i had been through what she had I’m not sure i could be. But Nyira is a character we need so bad in today’s time. I learned so much through her. I cried and got angry for her. This story reminds me of what my papaw taught me. You can not fight fire with fire and their is the right way to fight back and the wrong way. Along with the right time to fight back and wrong time. Thank you K.M for sending this book to me. I truly have treasured this story.

Chasty (Five stars)


Midwest Book Review:

Exceptionally well written, “Nyira and the Invisible Boy: The Graveyard Club” is a simply riveting read from beginning to end and showcases author K. M. Harrell’s genuine flair for originality and inherently entertaining story telling. While very highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that “Nyira and the Invisible Boy: The Graveyard Club” is also available in a digital book format.

Midwest Book Review


Netgalley:

My daughter loved this book. Thanks for the advanced copy. I can’t say much but that she could not put this book down. I will be purchasing more for her.

April S. (Five stars)


Netgalley:

This was a really cute book. I haven’t come across anything that I can quite compare it to. There is heavy slavery content. The characters are well developed. I love the interactions and how historically accurate the author was when needed.

Felicia A. (Four stars)


Netgalley:

This was a great read with intrigue and wonderful history. The beginning was slow at first and a little scattered from the angles but overall it came together and you want more so much more!!

Kyle L. (Five Stars)


Netgalley:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, the characters were great and I enjoyed learning about the environment. The characters were interesting and well developed.

Katherine M. (Four Stars)


Netgalley:

What a sweet and interesting African tale depicting some dark sides of life – slavery, superstition and death. I thought this would be a lighter story based on the cover of the book. Some scenes would be a bit too graphic for a middle school aged reader. There are a lot of characters and the chapters bounce back and forth between 2 main characters. Really original story that I haven’t read anything like. I loved the magical realms woven into dreams and other aspects of the story. It does end kind of abruptly.

Katrina M. (Four stars)


Netgalley:

This lovely childrens’ novel introduced me to a lot of new mythology and history and challenged many of my assumptions about Haiti. That makes this a very important novel, and one that can help with representation. But it also helps kids understand how diverse and spectacular our world and its histories and peoples are. I will be using this novel with middle-graders.

Gregory K, Educator (Four stars)


Netgalley:

We are really hoping for book 2 to come out soon, this is so innovative and new – I read it with my daughter and we were enthralled. It’s well written, original, challenging and excellent.

Clare L. (Five Stars)


Netgalley:

I was provided with a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

This was a very different read. At first, it was similar to Tarzan of the Apes, and then it reminded me of Underground to Canada, but still, this book was very different from anything I have ever read. I wish there had been more of the apes, especially since there was one on the cover and we only saw them in the first few chapters.

There were many characters and subplots in this book. I found it hard to keep them all straight and there were a few I didn’t care for, but I loved the ones of the main characters, which is the most important. Nyira’s especially. I loved the historical aspect and it kept me turning the pages. I loved how innocent she was and how she was an empowering character because she was able to make friends, not just because she had special powers. It’s my favourite type of empowerment.

I could see this book being read in a 7th or 8th grade history class. It had a lot of points that would make for a good class discussion and it is directed towards a younger audience so it is better than some of the books I had to read. I think its audience was a bit too young for me, but it was still very interesting and unique.

Overall, I would recommend this book to someone looking for a very original read.

Laurie B. (3 Stars)


Netgalley:

I quite enjoyed this book. It’s a middle grade book about a girl who has magical abilities. She is enslaved by the Dutch and shipped to Haiti where she meets a boy who lived in the mountains with his tribe until his father – the tribe’s chief – was killed. They team up, but Nyira is found out and condemned to death for witchcraft. Personally, I found it a bit young and simple at times, but overall I still thought it was a good book.

Jana R. (3 Stars)


Netgalley

While the premise of Nyria and the Invisuble boy was good, and I appreciate the diverse cast of characters, I could not get over the voice that Harrell used. It was impossibly childish—I worried that I was reading a chapter book, not a novel, the whole time. I ended up giving up on this book because the voice was too simplistic and overly childish.

Caitlin D. Educator (2 Stars)


BookLife Prize – 2018 Semi Finalist

Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10

Originality: 10 out of 10

Prose: 9 out of 10

Character/Execution: 8 out of 10

Overall: 9.00 out of 10

Assessment:

Plot: This complex fantasy novel richly integrates historical elements, while thrilling circumstances and high emotion propel the storytelling. 

Prose: Harrell writes convincingly of a child’s worldview, balancing the protagonist’s vulnerability with fortitude. Prose flows eloquently, with hard-hitting observations about cruelty and inhumanity.

Originality: The author’s blending of magic into a story of survival and oppression under colonialism, results in a rare and powerful work of speculative fiction. 

Character Development: Harrell’s characters are individually vivid, layered, and capable. Relationships between individuals, however, can come across as cold and lacking in dimension.

Date Submitted: August 04, 2018