cover image The Jumbies

The Jumbies

Tracey Baptiste. Algonquin Young Readers, $15.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-61620-414-3

Baptiste (Angel’s Grace) mines Caribbean folklore for her second novel. The jumbies are ancient, shape-shifting spirits living amid old-growth mahogany forests, feared and whispered about by humans. Eleven-year-old Corinne and her father, Pierre, don’t care; they live in a cottage under the forest eaves and tend the richest garden in the village, which is dominated by an orange tree planted by Corinne’s mother before her untimely death. It’s a happy household despite their loss, and Corinne’s fearless energy and can-do attitude are celebrated throughout. Her father, though, is lonely, and gradually falls under the spell of Severine, a jumbie in human disguise, embittered and seeking revenge. The storytelling pace is slow and descriptive—Baptiste takes seriously the job of familiarizing readers with what, for many, will be an unfamiliar setting and culture. It’s not until Severine appears in Pierre’s cottage, a quarter of the way through the book, that a plot begins to takes shape. What the story lacks in page-turning momentum, however, is made up for in its vivid evocation of Corinne’s island home. Ages 8–12. Agent: Marie Lamba, Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. (Apr.)