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Title: The Jumbies (#1)
Author: Tracey Baptiste
Published: 28th of April 2015 – Algonquin Young Readers
Format: Hardback – 240 pages
“My mother tells me all the time that if you don’t trouble trouble, then trouble won’t trouble you.” – The Jumbies
Hello Hello! How are you?
A new week, a new exciting post! It’s nearly the end of July and I am just so excited for August as I will be participating in the Tropeical Readathon hosted by Jenny and Rob, stay tuned for my TBR post going up this week!
Today, I’ve got a review of one of the Middle Grade Marvels book of the month picks. If you don’t know what Middle Grade Marvels is, head over to my announcement post here. If you love Middle Grade, you should definitely join our book club, it runs every month, all the members nominate books, four of which are chosen each month at random and put into a poll for the members to decide on which book they want to read and discuss the following month. If you haven’t joined our book club yet, what are you waiting for? In August, we will be reading Small Spaces by Katherine Arden and discussing it together, I’m so excited as this book sounds so good! All the information you need is pinned on the Middle Grade Marvels twitter!
Now, on to today’s review! Many of the MGM book club members actually finished this book right from the first week, I held myself back to read a section a week, but I definitely wanted to binge it and just buy the next book in the series and binge that too! Keep on reading for my thoughts on this unique middle grade story.
A spine-tingling tale rooted in Caribbean folklore that will have readers holding their breath as they fly through its pages.
Corinne La Mer isn’t afraid of anything. Not scorpions, not the boys who tease her, and certainly not jumbies. They’re just tricksters parents make up to frighten their children. Then one night Corinne chases an agouti all the way into the forbidden forest. Those shining yellow eyes that followed her to the edge of the trees, they couldn’t belong to a jumbie. Or could they?
When Corinne spots a beautiful stranger speaking to the town witch at the market the next day, she knows something unexpected is about to happen. And when this same beauty, called Severine, turns up at Corinne’s house, cooking dinner for Corinne’s father, Corinne is sure that danger is in the air. She soon finds out that bewitching her father, Pierre, is only the first step in Severine’s plan to claim the entire island for the jumbies. Corinne must call on her courage and her friends and learn to use ancient magic she didn’t know she possessed to stop Severine and save her island home.
With its able and gutsy heroine, lyrical narration, and inventive twist on the classic Haitian folktale “The Magic Orange Tree,” The Jumbies will be a favorite of fans of Breadcrumbs, A Tale Dark and Grimm, and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste is the first book in a middle grade fantasy series with horror (it’s more spooky than scary though, so don’t worry) and folkloric elements. The whole plot of this book is based on Caribbean folklore, and I have to say that that is what drew me to this book. I was looking for a book to nominate in July, and I’m so very happy I picked this one because it was so unique, very special, fast-paced and just a great story to read, whatever age you are.
This book is set in the Caribbean, it was actually my first time reading a book set there, and the first impression I got of the island was “wow”. There was just something about the descriptions in this book, how vivid the images appeared in my head and the writing style that drew me in that just made me love this book right from the start.
I will admit to reading too many books set in the US and Europe, and I don’t read as many books set in farther destinations like the Caribbean or Asia, and it’s a real shame because oftentimes the culture, folklore and beauty of these books are incredible, so I’m really going to have a go at reading more books from all over the world.
Corinne’s island is really special. She lives in a hut with her father, right next to the forest, which is strange for this island because the inhabitants live the farthest from the forest they can get. Why you may ask? Well, because of the jumbies of course? I was really not expecting to get chapters from the jumbies point of view, it was a really different way of introducing this character. I loved the island setting, I could picture the whole thing, from the forest to the market square, to Corinne’s hut and event he beach and the sea where her father fishes. The addition of Corinne’s delicious oranges from her garden gave this book such a special feel (even though I’m allergic to oranges and don’t particularly like them either), I wanted to be on this island and eat those oranges – or maybe just smell them at least!
Corinne: Corinne is the main character in this book, and right from page one she is a force to be reckoned with. She lost her mother when she was young, and we meet Corinne and her father as they are going to their mother’s grave. My heart immediately went out to Corinne, but as a young girl having lost her mother, she was so mature and strong, this gave me such a lovely feeling because I knew that whatever happened to her, she would be fine. I loved reading the parts about her growing her oranges when she was with her friends or even with her father – I especially adored Corinne and Pierre’s relationship.
Severine: I actually laughed so much when I saw that the “villain” of this book is called Severine, because it’s my mother-in-law’s name and I’m sorry to say this *whispers* but she is just like her. I usually don’t hate villains, but I hated Severine with a vengeance, she was such a cruel, awful character (not badly written, just a bad person), but I think it made Corinne’s fight against her even better, I was very happy with what happened to her at the end.
Dru: Dru is one of Corinne’s friends, she meets her at the market where she is selling her oranges, and even though Dru is shy, young and easily scared, she becomes a really good friend to Corinne and is there for her when it matters.
Malik and Bouki: These brothers were two of my favourite characters in this book, they are so funny and even though they tease the girls at the start of the book, all four of them become fast friends and it was such a lovely relationship to read about. I found these brothers to be really quite funny and it was so sweet how they helped Corinne when she was in trouble.
The White Witch: I wasn’t really expecting this character in the book, and even though it’s hard to really understand what side she is on at the beginning of the book, her chapters and what we learn about her is very interesting. We don’t get that much of an insight into her character and she doesn’t appear all throughout the book, but I really liked when she was present, it was a really good addition to the plot.
The jumbies/Caribbean folklore: This book focuses on the jumbies which are a very interesting part of Caribbean folklore that the author actually grew up hearing about on the island of Trinidad. I had no experience or knowledge of Caribbean myths and folklore, but this book was such a nice first look into this world and it has made me want to delve deeper into folklore and myths, so if anyone has any recommendations, please leave them in the comments! I love books with myths and folklore, so I was immediately drawn to this book. The thing I really appreciated what that all the creatures in this book are jumbies, but they are all really different from each other, for instance, jumbies like Severine, douens like the little baby-men which are VERY creepy (you have been warned), la Diabless, the lagahoo and even more. I really loved this part of the plot!
Friendship: I am a fantasy lover and I do love a touch of romance in my reads, but if there is one thing I adore, it’s friendship. In my experience, middle grade books have amazing friendships and the characters have such a great dynamic and very different personalities, this was definitely the case here. Dru, Malik, Bouki and Corinne don’t know one another at the start of the book, but they meet and they friendship grows and develops throughout the story, it was a lovely part of this book and I really hope that these four characters will make an appearance in the second book!
Corinne missing her mother/grief/loss of a parent: I thought I would add this theme because it can be a trigger, and it’s also quite a hard thing to read about, especially for children who are the intended audience of this series. I do however appreciate that this theme is not covered up, or hidden, in most middle grades I’ve read, if a parent or both are dead or absent, it’s not glossed over, it’s explained properly, and I think that is really important. Corinne misses her mother and she is still grieving for her, as is her father, and they come together through this loss to remember her.
Fighting against evil: Even though most of the jumbies on the island are not in themselves evil, because of Severine, they all appear to be very malevolent. A lot of books I read have this good versus evil fight, and there is one in here, but more important elements behind this fight are explained, this probably doesn’t make sense, but if you read it you will understand what I mean. I think what I want to say is that this book shows good versus evil, and even though the good side prevails, the bad side is not killed and then forgotten, there is more to this story, and I liked that it wasn’t like all fights.
MY THOUGHTS AND RATING
This book was such a unique read and I’m so happy that it was picked for our Middle Grade Marvels book club. I think all of us enjoyed this book, and if you have read it you will understand why. I loved the folklore, Corinne and her loving, strong personality, her relationship with her friends and her father, the beauty of this island and the fast-paced and fluid writing style.
I gave this book 4 stars, I think it’s an amazing book for any age, very different from a lot of books I have read and had me completely enchanted throughout. It’s not a very long book, so it won’t take you that long to read, but I guarantee that when you finish this book, you will put it down with a smile on your face and the vivid image of a beautiful island, a forest full of spooky creatures, orange trees in bloom and some great characters! I’m so very excited for the next instalment in this series and I highly recommend it.
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed this review, seen you soon, stay safe,
If you would like to purchase this book, you can find it here: Amazon UK (affiliate link) – Amazon FR (affiliate link) – AbeBooks (affiliate link) – The Book Depository (affiliate link) – Audible FR (affiliate link) – Amazon US – Waterstones – Barnes and Noble – Audible UK – Scrib’d – Kobo