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.

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Time: // 5: 43 a.m. Tuesday morning. Everyone is asleep and the house is so quiet. It’s such a rare thing to experience.

The scene: // I’ve been trying for the past two days to write a post, but to no avail. Two of the kids have been sick with various things, I had a killer migraine, and there were countless errands and chores to do around the house. Now that all of that is out the way, I can sit here quietly and gather my thoughts.

This weekend: // my city had their first annual Beach Streets event, where they closed down a major street to cars and opened it up to bikes, pedestrians, skateboards. . . almost anything that moved. I took my kids and sisters to this fun event that lasted most of the day. It’s funny how the idea of closing down a street to let people walk and ride could be so much fun. It was one of the best events my city has ever hosted.

Last week I read: // a ton of children’s books and Syllabus by Lynda Barry. The thing I’ve come to understand about Barry is that in each work of hers, there’s always a question that she needs to explore. In Syllabus she brings together several questions that she’s had about art and images, but also how can keeping a daily notebook help us transfer the things we think about, that are inside us to something more solid on paper and to others.

The book’s form is so unique. It’s like a composition notebook with so much color and images on each page. There’s also a lot of inspiration to be found. I don’t think I’m going to buy a copy of Syllabus, but I can see why so many people want to. My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Next up is: // a ton of books! There’s so much that I want to read. My boys are reluctant readers, so I’m trying to find fantastic middle grade books that I can share with the two of them this summer. This week I’m trying to read and finish:

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  • Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse by Tamera Will Wissinger
  • The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste. It has such a creepy cover and it has to do with creatures from Carribean fairy tales.
    How often can a reader say that?
  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. I’m probably one of the few people who haven’t read this book yet. If you haven’t picked up the Lumberjanes yet, you need to change that.
  • Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
  • Bone Gap by Laura Ruby.

I’m looking forward to reading all five books this week. Most of them have already been named a favorite book of the year by various sources I follow. And it’s only June!

Thinking about: // The Worst Kind of Groundhog Day: Let’s Talk (Again) About Diversity in Publishing by Roxanne Gay. Just.Read.It.

Now I’m off to: // enjoy my coffee.

How’s your Tuesday morning going? What are you looking forward to today?