Thursday, April 2, 2015

Island Tale: The Jumbies

The Jumbies
by Tracey Baptiste
Algonquin Young Readers
229 pages
ISBN: 9781616204143

Author Tracey Baptiste brings the boogie man to life in her debut middle grades  novel set in the Caribbean. Corrinne lives with her loving, attentive father  on the island at the edge of a forest. There are jumbies who live in the forest but dutiful children know not to venture into the trees after dark. Corrinne isn't afraid of the jumbies. She thinks it's just a story told to kids, just another silly fairy tale. When she has to enter  the forest to get back her prized possession, her dead mother's necklace, Corrinne doesn't realize a jumbie has followed her home.

The next day a strikingly beautiful stranger shows up at the market place, Severine comes from no where and everywhere. Soon, she's ensconced in Corrinne's home trying to weasel her way into the family. Corrinne visits the local witch for help. The witch refuses to help saying that the jumbies were on the island first. It's their home and she won't help the islanders fight them. She does tell Corrine to figure out what her own magic is and learn to use it. Corrinne is going to need all the help she can find if she plans on saving her home, banishing the evil jumbie back to the forest and breaking the curse that has captured her father in its claws. Corrinne is going to need a powerful magic...the kind of magic only her mother could have given her.

A helpful note in the back of the book defines various forms of jumbies for readers. In the Caribbean Jumbies are  sneaky tricksters who can take on the form of a beautiful woman or an animal.  They can trick you. Maybe even your neighbor or the barista at Starbucks is a jumbie. Jumbies will steal your home, your identity, your child and your life. Luckily, they can't stay in human form for extended periods. They have to return to the forest to stay strong. Jumbies can appear as babies (douens), La Diabless (beautiful women who have one regular foot and one cow's hoof) or Soucouyants (old women who fly around on fire and suck blood).

The Jumbies is a nice escape from the European fairy tales. Tracey Baptiste has added Caribbean flair to a category full of princesses, dragons and gnomes.

Beautiful cover art--spooky  yellow eyes staring out of the forest and a girl creeping through the trees holding her basket of oranges is sublime. The two boys who cause Corrinne to run into the forest are there, too, hiding behind a tree ready to pounce.

Highly recommended for readers who like a good fairy tale. This is a welcome departure from the Grimm brothers, Hans Christian Anderson and Walt Disney.

Middle grades 4-7.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not received monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

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