Baptiste, Tracey. The Jumbies. Algonquin Young Readers, 2015. 234 pages. Hardcover $13.61, ISBN 978-1-61620-414-3; Tr. $5.96, ISBN 978-1-61620-592-8
TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes
Genre: Folktale Retellings
Part of a series? No.
An intricate tale, Baptiste’s novel adapts a Haitian folktale into a middle grade novel. Corinne isn’t afraid of anything … not the dark, not the bullies, and certainly not the Jumbies that everyone else fears in the forest. As her father says, Jumbies are nothing but a fairytale…until, of course, the day a Jumbie follows her out. Will Severine, the Jumbie woman, steal Corinne’s father from her? Will the Jumbies destroy Corinne’s village? Or will Corinne harness the power within herself to save her family and her people?
Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:
A novel about friendship, bravery, and empathy, this story is a powerful addition to any library’s middle grade collection, particularly with a focus on folktale retellings. When so many retellings nowadays reflect Western versions of Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, and other “Disney” topics, this exciting Haitian story (based on “The Magic Orange Tree”) really offers something new. The development of the novel is a bit slow, but once the Jumbies creep out of the forest, the story launches forward, full steam ahead! Hand this one to your readers who want to read fairy tales in a new light.
Curriculum Ties/Library Use:
A fun book club exercise would be to talk about stewardship of the earth. Green activities such as planting something on campus (a tree! Or, if not possible, maybe some flowers or other small plants), holding a recycling drive, or other eco-friendly activity would be a great way to act upon the message of stewardship that runs throughout the novel. (Ideas from myself)
Grade Level: 3-6
Awards and Starred Reviews:
Bird, E. (2015, Apr. 28). Review of the day: The jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (Review of the book The Jumbies). School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2015/04/28/review-of-the-day-the-jumbies-by-tracey-baptiste/
Kirkus Reviews. (2015, Jan. 20). The jumbies (Review of the book The Jumbies). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/tracey-baptiste/the-jumbies/
Publishers Weekly. (2015, Feb. 9). The jumbies (Review of the book The Jumbies). Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/tracey-baptiste/the-jumbies/