By Tracey Baptiste
When Corinne La Mer chases an agouti into the woods to retrieve her pendant, she attracts the attention of an ancient being who lives in the forest: a jumbie. The jumbies, like the European fairy folk, are Other: the supernatural, sometimes dangerous beings who live just out of sight. When a beautiful stranger appears at the market the next day, Corinne and her new friends sense that something is wrong, and set out to investigate. But this jumbie is powerful, and angry: she blames Corinne for the loss of her sister, and Corinne's people for stealing the jumbies' land. Corinne's father, friends, and the entire village are in grave danger unless Corinne can find a way to stop her.
The Jumbies is a deliciously creepy middle-grade fantasy/horror based on Caribbean folktales. The language of the book is beautiful and evocative. The Jumbies is rich with atmosphere: the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the Caribbean. When Corinne bites into an orange and the juice bursts into her mouth, I could taste it so clearly it left me craving oranges.
Corinne is fearless and independent. She's not afraid to go into the forest, or to the market, by herself. She and her father live on the edge of the forest, where most villagers would be afraid to live. Corinne's mother is dead, but she has a close relationship with her father. In fact, the need to save her father is one of the aspects that drives the plot.
Corinne's friends are an interesting, diverse, and likable group. The two orphans Bouki and Malik are troublemakers, yet loyal and brave. Corinne meets Dru, an Indo-Trinidadian girl at the market, and the two immediately become friends. Dru is timid, but she tries hard to overcome her fears.
The story touches on issues of colonialism, hate, and fear of the "other." The jumbies have good cause to hate humans. They inhabited the island long before humans set foot on it, and humans have driven them to a life of hiding.
As a Caribbean based story, The Jumbies is a welcome and much needed addition to the children's fantasy/horror canon.
- Fairy tales
- Folk tales
Tracey Baptiste keynote speech at Kidlitcon 2015
Source: Review copy sent by the publisher.
The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links.