Short review: The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

Short review: The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

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The Jumbies
Tracey Baptiste
240 pages
Published in April 2015 by Algonquin Young Readers
Source: Public Library

The other kids in Corrine La Mer’s small Caribbean village may believe in jumbies, but she doesn’t. Who would really believe in fairy-like creatures that can shed their skin and put it back on or snatch kids into the forest? Life in her village is pretty quiet until a mysterious woman named Severine suddenly appears. The young girl knows trouble is brewing when she finds Severine at her house, trying to get close to Corrine’s father. After the stranger’s jumbie nature and plan to take over the island is exposed, every human is in danger. It will take all of Corrine’s courage, her misfit friends, and belief in magic to fight Severine. Can she help save everyone in time?

I picked up The Jumbies after seeing its creepy cover online. A young brown girl in a dark forest with glowing yellow eyes watching her? Count me in. Plus, the book takes place in the Caribbean and it’s based on Caribbean fairy tales?! Yes and yes.

I’m used to mostly European fairy tales like “Cinderella” and “Little Red”, so to find the rare book that deals with Caribbean fairy tales is something not to miss. Author Tracey Baptiste takes the fairy tales from her childhood and gives readers an engaging story that makes us want more books that feature fairy tales from non-European cultures. Publishers, are you listening?!

Think of jumbies as fairies in various forms. Baptiste does a fantastic job of bringing these creatures and their surroundings to life without making things confusing or explaining every single detail. That’s something I’ve noticed in a few children’s books lately when it comes to cultural aspects that a mainstream audience may not know about.

While the elements of fantasy were interesting, this isn’t a perfect book. At times I wanted more from the writing, but the plot did keep my attention. I thought it was strange that the protagonist was friendless at first in such a small village. I also wanted to know more about the local witch whose back story was suddenly included at the end without much support.

Even with the problems I had with this book, I can’t wait to read it with my kids. The Jumbies is a unique middle grade story that kids and adults will enjoy. My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Thoughts: Fables Vol. 18 Cubs in Toyland

Thoughts: Fables Vol. 18 Cubs in Toyland

willingham fables 18Fables Vol. 18: Cubs in Toyland

Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Gene Ha

192 pages

Published in January 2013 by DC Comics

Source: Public Library

Guys, if you haven’t started reading Bill Willingham’s fantastic Fables series, you need to start now. Just when I think that the series can’t get any better, a volume is published that just blows that opinion out the water. Like most Fables readers, I have a few favorite volumes but the last two published volumes of the series, are among the best so far.

In the previous volume, Inherit the Wind, Ozama shared the prophecy of Snow and Bigby’s children.

The first child will be a king.

The second child a pauper.

The third will do an evil thing.

The fourth will die to stop her.

The fifth will be a hero bold.

The sixth will judge the rest.

The seventh lives to ages old, and is by heaven blessed.

Some of that prophecy comes true with Winter becoming the new North Wind after the demise of her grandfather.  In Cubs in Toyland, we see more of the prophecy coming to life.

The toy boat that Therese received in the previous volume speaks to her. It tells her of a wonderful adventure the two can have together. Therese sneaks away and arrives at a new land, Toyland, but it’s not what the young girl thought it would be. At home the wolf pack, lead by oldest child Darien is searching for Therese. But can they find her before too much damage is done?

What a ride. This latest volume is one of the most heartbreaking books of the series. I don’t know where to start with this one. While writing this review, just re-reading it made me cry. So I will make this short. This is a story of sacrifice, of love, of courage, of redemption even when you are not worthy of it. Fables reminds readers that fairy tales aren’t what we see in Disney movies: the hero doesn’t always win, villains aren’t all bad, and these stories were never meant for children. I also like that Willingham intertwines various tales to give us this interconnected story. I usually need to look up new-to-me fairy tales after reading a volume.

If you haven’t read this series, it’s time to start. Take out your library card or call your local bookstore and see if they have this series in stock. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Short Review: Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge

Short Review: Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge

Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses

Written by Ron Koertge

Illustrated by Andrea Dezsö

Published in 2012 by Candlewick Press

Source: Public Library

Genre: YA and up

 

I don’t see, but I know things.

Nature does that sometimes – curses and blesses,

takes away and gives. I’m blind but I see.

–          from “Thumbelina, The Mole’s Story”

I love fairy tale retellings.  Earlier this year it seems like retellings were the only things I was reading. In Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses, Ron Koertge retells some of the most popular fairy tales in free prose giving them a facelift.

The cleverness of some of Koertge’s stories reminds me of why I like retellings so much. A good retelling gives readers an old story in a fresh way. The Ever After for Cinderella’s stepsisters was sober reading while the modern-day story of Red Riding Hood in what I imagine to be a Valley-Girl voice was hilarious. This book also reminded me that not every retelling works. There were some retellings that missed the mark for me. Not every retelling needs to be clever or funny but it needs to add something or what’s the point?

I picked Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses up because it was recently listed as a Publisher Weekly Best of 2012 book. While I’m glad I read it, I don’t feel the need to buy my own copy. My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.