Reviewed by Jennifer Langreck
Do you remember believing in fairy tales or scary creatures when you were young? In Tracey Baptiste’s fantasy novel The Jumbies, Caribbean lore becomes reality. The twelve-year-old protagonist Corinne doesn’t have to believe in the creatures she hears about in the local stories, but she does have to confront them. The much-feared Jumbies are a variety of supernatural creatures indigenous to the small Caribbean island. After the arrival of human settlers, the Jumbies were driven deep into the forest, eventually becoming part of the island’s folklore. When Corinne discovers she holds a surprising secret in her ancestry, she must decide where her loyalties lie: with the human family she grew up with, or the Jumbies, with whom she now has a deep connection.
Will she use her new supernatural powers to help the Jumbies retake the Island? Or will she fight them, assisting the human community? Will Corinne reject her Jumbie heritage or will she alter the biases of her human community? This action-packed modern take on Trinidadian folklore will help middle-schoolers get a better grasp on what’s it like to be mixed-race and subjected to the othering that mixed-race youth experience when living among a mono-racial culture. Baptiste also addresses the complicated dynamic between the colonizer and the colonized, using fantasy to illustrate the very real oppression that comes with colonization. What side will Corinne take? Will she bring an end to the conflict taking place on her island?
by Tracey Baptiste
Algonquin Young Readers, 2015
Jennifer is an English Education graduate student at the U of M who enjoys spooky stories and Halloween a little too much!