Friday, November 27, 2015

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

Eleven year old Corinne La Mer is no fraidy cat.  No matter how superstitious or what the people on her small Caribbean island say about the jumbies, she and her fisherman father do not believe in these evil shape-shifting creatures.  But, on All Hallows Eve, mischievous orphan brothers Bouki and Malik scare an agouti into the forbidden forest where jumbies live wearing Corinne's necklace, given to her by her deceased mother, and she knows she has to follow it into that dark, creepy place to get it back.

No sooner does she retrieve her necklace, but she notices a pair of yellow eyes looking at her through the dense trees.  A little creeped out, Corinne leaves the forbidden forest as fast as possible.  What she doesn't realize is that she has been followed out by a jumbie. The next day, while her father is out fishing, Corinne takes her oranges to the market to sell, she notices a tall strange woman dressed all in green walking directly to the old witch who sells magic potions.  The rest of the day, Corinne hangs out with her new friend Dru, and the orphan brothers Bouki and Malik, not realizing that they are being watched by the woman from the market.

The woman, who name is Severine, who the reader already knows is a jumbie, is also the sister of Corinne's mother.  Finding that out certainly explained why the oranges from the tree she planted are the sweetest and best on the whole island.  But she died of illness and now Severine wants revenge and she wants the island to go back to belonging to the jumbies, who were there long before man came. And she needs Corinne's power to do it all.

So, it is no surprise that when Corinne get home, she discovers that Severine has wormed her way into the house and charmed her father, Pierre.  And Severine is there again the next day, cooking dinner, but something about it doesn't smell right to Corinne.  Now very suspicious of Severine, Corinne stands up to her and throws out the dinner she was preparing, in order to make it herself "the way papa likes it."

Severine keeps returning to Corinne's home and charming her father.  One evening, when Malik and Bouki bring home an injured Corinne, and Severine causes much pain when she touches the wound, Pierre demands to care for his daughter himself.  While doing that, Severine leaves, and Corinne has Bouki and Malik follow her, but she seems to disappear into thin air.  That's when the kids finally realize Severine is a jumbie.

When Severine finally manages to get Pierre under her spell, Corinne knows there's going to be big trouble and she needs more help than Bouki, Malok and Dru can give her.  Maybe it's time to enlist the help of the witch from the market.

In her keynote speech at KidLit Con 1015 last October, Tracey Baptiste introduced some of us to jumbies and douens and all kinds of fascinating creatures that made up the oral stories of her youth on her native Trinidad.  The desire to write down these stories is what gave Tracey her motivation to become a writer, and I so glad she did.

Told in the third person, Corinne emerges as a great protagonist.  Brave, adventurous, fiercely loyal to the papa and her deceased mother, she is a fully developed character, as are Bouki, Malik, Dru and especially Severine.

This is called a horror story by some, but I wouldn't go that far.  Scary? Yes, sometimes even very scary but Corinne and her father are such likable characters that you really want to find out what happens to them.  Personally, I found The Jumbies a fun, late night book to read, the perfect time to read a scary story.

In her Author's Note, Baptiste writes that The Jumbies, was inspired by a Haitian folktale called "The Magic Orange Tree" (which you can actually read HERE).  But, she also goes on the explain that there are all kinds of jumbies and how to recognize them.

There aren't many books that are set on Caribbean islands, so this is a most welcomed addition.  Some of what is in the book may be unfamiliar to readers, but Baptiste takes a careful amount of time to explain what needs explaining in the first part of the book.  Once the groundwork is laid, the action reves up and reading The Jumbies is an very exciting adventure.

For more on the story behind The Jumbies, be sure to visit The Brown Bookshelf and read the interview with Tracey Baptiste.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was purchased for my personal library

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