THE JUMBIES by Tracey Baptiste is a story about Corinne Le Mar, a fearless girl who isn’t afraid of anything- not scorpions or bullies or even the jumbies that live in the woods behind her house. In fact, she doesn’t even believe the jumbies exist… until she meets one who puts on a human face and ensnares her father. When the jumbies decide to come out of hiding, it’s up to Corinne and her friends to stop the jumbies from destroying their home… and maybe stop their home from destroying the jumbies.
My godson had been asked by his teacher to read a book steeped in Caribbean folklore for his class project and THE JUMBIES turned out to be the perfect book for that as it’s based on the Haitian folktale “The Magic Orange Tree”. Baptiste writes a creepy middle grade book that is just the right amount of supernatural and has an underlying message that sparked some great conversations between my godson and I.
The jumbies on the island were there first. That’s their home and it had been since the dawn of time. When the humans arrived, they first tried to murder the jumbies and then pushed what was left of them so deep into hiding that they became a tale that parents told their children to keep them in line. No one believes in the jumbies anymore. I think it’s a great way to bring up settler colonialism and have a talk with younger children about how invaders have taken Native homelands and lives. When my godson talked about being “mad” at the jumbies for what they were doing, I compared it to the way our families are and have been pushing for land sovereignty and the right to exist in a space that was violently taken away from us. Are we the monstrous jumbies? No. Do we kidnap children? No. But there are those that want us to stay in the shadows and be content with what we’ve been given… and that’s not the right course of action for us… or the jumbies.
There’s also commentary on what it means to be biracial to both self and others (shown through Corinne as she finds out truth about her heritage) and I’m excited to see how that progresses in the sequel, RISE OF THE JUMBIES, which is due out in September 2017.