Book Review: The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (Middle Grade)

Book Review: The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (2015) 5 Stars ***** (Middle Grade)

Ewww. Ughhh. Yuck. Dreadful. Frightful. Absurd. Wonderful. Fun. This is the most ooey-gooey kids book I’ve ever read. Loved it! If your middle grade reader is looking for a fright-night, this is the place! Set on a Caribbean island, “a Jumbie (JUM-bee) is the name for every bad-thinking, sneaky, trick-loving creature that comes out at night with the purpose of causing trouble.”

There are many different types of jumbies: the douens (dwens), La Diabless (LA-jah-bless), Soucouyant (soo-coo-YAH), and Lagahoo (lah-gah-HOO)” to name a few. “The jumbie crawled with ease over thick trunks and gnarled underbrush, even though night in the forest was pitch-black.” Their purpose? To disrupt, terrify, and kill, especially children who disobey their parents and wander into the forest at night or respond to the jumbies’ calling their names.

Feisty, brave, adventurous, confident, twelve year-old Corinne La Mer lives happily with her father, Pierre, after the death of her mother Nicole one year before. It is All Hallow’s Eve when the people of the island pay respects to their deceased relatives. Unwittingly, Corinne unleashes the power of Severine, the meanest jumbie that ever lived. A shapeshifter in the guise of a beautiful woman, Severine entices Pierre with her charms, while administering evil potions to change Corinne’s father into a mean, snarling, gnarling jumbie.

Corinne is befriended and helped by Dru, and the orphaned, homeless brothers Bouki and Malik, as well as the frog whose life Corinne saved at the beginning of the story. Corinne approaches the white witch for help, but her powers are waning with her advanced age and debilitated physical condition. Corinne learns the surprising truth about her mother, Severine, and her ancestry. Corinne wields her own magic with the fruit of the sweetest orange tree in the land, and the stone necklace, a gift from her mother before her death, which Corinne always wears tied around her neck. In the end, life returns to normal with a few exceptions—some happy, some sad.

This book is beautifully written with fully developed action and transitions. The author, born in Trinidad, appears to have a complete and subtle understanding of the subject. The book shows rather than tells, so we learn the characters by what they do and say. Inspired by the Haitian folktale “The Magic Orange Tree” this book contains heroes, villains, magic, tasks and deeds that must be accomplished to save the hero, her family and friends, and the community in which she lives. Our hero never seeks fame but steps up to the task when she realizes she’s the only one who can do it — the journey of the hero!

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at elainewrites @earthlink.net

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

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Saturday, March 14, 2020- Barnes & Noble, Massapequa, NY 12:00-4:00pm

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