August 9, 2016
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste
Corinne isn’t afraid of anything so when the pesky brothers who live nearby tie her necklace to an agouti she chases the animal into the mahogany forest. When she leaves, she doesn’t see it, but she is followed by a jumbie.
Jumbie is the island word that means something like faerie but these aren’t the faeries of Europe. These are the spooks and haunts and things that go bump in the night in Trinidad. Author Tracey Baptiste grew up hearing stories about jumbies but reading European fairy tales. She wished that she could read about jumbies too and this is her attempt to fill in what was lacking.
At the market, Corinne sells oranges from the tree planted by her Mama. Mama is dead but Corinne still has the tree and it grows the sweetest oranges on the entire island. At the market, Corinne is taken under the wing of another seller and makes friends with the woman’s daughter. Together, they spot a beautiful woman talking to the local witch. No one knows who the woman is but soon she is at Corinne’s house, talking to her Papa. Before long, Papa is seeing storms that aren’t there and no longer answers when his daugther calls him.
It doesn’t take long for Corinne to realize that this beautiful woman is a jumbie but in the jumbie Corinne sees something familiar. Soon she is trying to figure out what ties her mama and she herself have to these frightening creatures. It takes three days for jumbie magic to become permanent and Corinne and her friends must race to save their village before it is too late.
Sue here. At first, I didn’t love this story as much as I might. This is definitely early middle grade, for 2nd and 3rd graders. Why had Baptiste written a book that read something like horror for readers so young? Then I made the fairy tale connection and all fell into place. No, I’m not saying it is gory. In fact, it isn’t. But it is atmospheric and spooky the way many fairy tales are spooky.
Young readers will enjoy reading about strange creatures and watching a peer save the day even as the adults fall prey to the jumbies.