Corrine and her father live a peaceful life. Her mother died when she was younger, and they are all each other has. One day, two boys tie her mom’s necklace to an agouti (small mammal that looks kind of like a squirrel minus the bushy tail), making her chase after it into the forbidden forest. She gets spooked in there, especially when she sees yellow eyes. She runs out of the forest and into her father, who teases her about getting scared by a jumbie (spirit). She scoffs and they walk away, and the jumbie appears. Such is the beginning of Tracey Baptiste‘s The Jumbies.
As with some of our favorite fairy tales, a beautiful woman enters their lives and mesmerizes her father. But Corrine is not fooled and neither are we. Severine is the jumbie that has a connection to Corrine’s family (no spoilers), wants a family of her own, and the entire island while she’s at it. Corrine must make her father and everyone else on the island see Severine for who she really is.
Tracey Baptiste brings Caribbean folklore to the masses, which makes this novel not only good for kicking back with a good book for fun, but a way for educators to immerse adolescents in cultural literature, while engaging young readers with the supernatural. That our heroine is a young girl with her male sidekicks is the icing. Children as the heroes, surrounded by unsuspecting or disbelieving adults is a timeless theme that transcends generations and cultures. Although targeting young readers, I enjoyed this story immensely and read it with my children as well. The language could have been a little more descriptive, but that did not deter from the essence of the story.
Corinne La Mer claims she isn’t afraid of anything. Not scorpions, not the boys who tease her, and certainly not jumbies. They’re just tricksters made up by parents to frighten their children. Then one night Corinne chases an agouti all the way into the forbidden forest, and shining yellow eyes follow her to the edge of the trees. They couldn’t belong to a jumbie. Or could they?
When Corinne spots a beautiful stranger at the market the very next day, she knows something extraordinary is about to happen. When this same beauty, called Severine, turns up at Corinne’s house, danger is in the air. Severine plans 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 to save her island home.