Happy Friday, kids! It’s time once more to look at my massive TBR and make myself feel guilty for not reading as much as I should! Since I announced my intentions two weeks ago to make a deliberate effort to read more diversely, and since it is Black History Month, I wanted to take a look at my never-ending TBR pile and feature books by some amazing Black authors.
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste; cover design by Carla Weise
Corinne La Mer isn’t afraid of anything. Not scorpions, not the boys who tease her, and certainly not jumbies. She knows that jumbies aren’t real; they’re just creatures parents make up to frighten their children. But on All Hallows’ Eve, Corinne chases an agouti all the way into the forbidden woods. Those shining yellow eyes that follow her to the edge of the trees, they couldn’t belong to a jumbie. Or could they?
Corinne begins to notice odd occurrences after that night. First she spots a beautiful stranger speaking to the town witch at the market. Then this same beauty, called Severine, turns up at Corinne’s house, cooking dinner for her father. Danger is in the air. Sure enough, bewitching Corinne’s father is 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 ancient magic to stop Severine and to save her island home.
I’m really shocked that I haven’t featured this on TBR Friday before, because this is one of the first books I added to my TBR when I started this blog. It sounds like an eerie, magical adventure, and it routinely shows up on “best of” lists, so I don’t know why I’ve waited this long to read it.
Hoodoo by Ronald L. Smith; cover art by Sebastian Skrobol (illustration) and Lisa Vega (design)
Twelve-year-old Hoodoo Hatcher was born into a family with a rich tradition of practicing folk magic: hoodoo, as most people call it. But even though his name is Hoodoo, he can’t seem to cast a simple spell.
Then a mysterious man called the Stranger comes to town, and Hoodoo starts dreaming of the dead rising from their graves. Even worse, he soon learns the Stranger is looking for a boy. Not just any boy. A boy named Hoodoo. The entire town is at risk from the Stranger’s black magic, and only Hoodoo can defeat him. He’ll just need to learn how to conjure first.
I could have done a TBR post just on Ronald L. Smith’s books. He has one coming out next week that I am DYING to read — The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away — but I wanted to include this book today because I am really into magical horror right now. Don’t be surprised if you see his name again next Friday.
The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown; cover design by Maeve Norton
“Do you know what it feels like to be forgotten?”
On a cold winter night, Iris and her best friend, Daniel, sneak into a clearing in the woods to play in the freshly fallen snow. There, Iris carefully makes a perfect snow angel — only to find the crumbling gravestone of a young girl, Avery Moore, right beneath her.
Immediately, strange things start to happen to Iris: She begins having vivid nightmares. She wakes up to find her bedroom window wide open, letting in the snow. She thinks she sees the shadow of a girl lurking in the woods. And she feels the pull of the abandoned grave, calling her back to the clearing…
Obsessed with figuring out what’s going on, Iris and Daniel start to research the area for a school project. They discover that Avery’s grave is actually part of a neglected and forgotten Black cemetery, dating back to a time when White and Black people were kept separate in life — and in death. As Iris and Daniel learn more about their town’s past, they become determined to restore Avery’s grave and finally have proper respect paid to Avery and the others buried there.
But they have awakened a jealous and demanding ghost, one that’s not satisfied with their plans for getting recognition. One that is searching for a best friend forever — no matter what the cost.
[Note: The word “white” was capitalized in the synopsis provided by the publisher.]
I found this book by following a Twitter thread specifically asking Black authors to showcase their work. Not everybody likes social media (which I understand completely — Twitter probably accounts for 60% of my reading and blogging productivity problems), but it can be a great way to find new authors. The book comes out in November; it will make perfect winter reading.
Just South of Home by Karen Strong; cover art by Geneva B
Twelve-year-old Sarah is finally in charge. At last, she can spend her summer months reading her favorite science books and bossing around her younger brother, Ellis, instead of being worked to the bone by their overly strict grandmother, Mrs. Greene. But when their cousin, Janie arrives for a visit, Sarah’s plans are completely squashed.
Janie has a knack for getting into trouble and asks Sarah to take her to Creek Church: a landmark of their small town that she heard was haunted. It’s also off-limits. Janie’s sticky fingers lead Sarah, Ellis and his best friend, Jasper, to uncover a deep-seated part of the town’s past. With a bit of luck, this foursome will heal the place they call home and the people within it they call family.
Here’s another book I found via Twitter (see? it’s not a complete waste of time!). This sounds like a wonderful book, and I’m very eager to read it when it comes out in May. I’m going to be perfectly honest with you, though: I’m worried that it’s not my place to review this book. The haunted landmark in the story is a Black church that was burned down by the Klan. As a white person, I can’t possibly understand a Black person’s perspective on racism, so I fear that if I were to review it I would be speaking when I should be letting Black bloggers and critics speak instead. I’m definitely going to read it, but I’m going to read up on Black creators’ and critics’ thoughts on the subject to see if I want to review it. (The same goes for The Forgotten Girl, as it also deals with racism.)
While we’re on the subject, I want to make something clear: I take my reviews seriously, and I try to be as thorough and intersectional as possible. I do choose books for this blog based on the spooky subject matter — my FAQs lay out what I usually look for — but that doesn’t mean that I take books lightly or ignore serious issues just to focus on the creepy parts. I would never read Just South of Home, for example, and talk about how scary the ghosts were instead of discussing the violence, racism, and generational pain represented by the ruins of the church.
If you have any thoughts on the subject or any links to point me to, please feel free to leave a comment below. Now, let’s get back to the books!
Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves; cover design by Paul Weil
Hanna simply wants to be loved. With a head plagued by hallucinations, a medicine cabinet full of pills, and a closet stuffed with frilly, violet dresses, Hanna’s tired of being the outcast, the weird girl, the freak. So she runs away to Portero, Texas, in search of a new home.
But Portero is a stranger town than Hanna expects. As she tries to make a place for herself, she discovers dark secrets that would terrify any normal soul. Good thing for Hanna, she’s far from normal. And when a crazy girl meets an even crazier town, only two things are certain: Anything can happen and no one is safe.
All the titles up until now have been middle grade — finally some YA to give them a little competition! Dia Reeves has been on my radar for quite a while, because she has a reputation as being a very weird horror author, and very weird horror is 100% my jam. I still haven’t read any of her books, though, and I need to fix that.
The Ghost of Sifty-Sifty Sam by Angela Shelf Medearis and Jacqueline Rogers
To win a $5000 reward, a chef named Dan agrees to stay in a haunted house overnight. When he meets a very hungry ghost, he gets more than he had expected.
Hooray, a picture book! I get very excited when I find spooky picture books with non-white main characters. They’re out there (and I’ve already reviewed quite a few), but since this is already a pretty niche blog, it does sometimes take a little more searching. This one looks like a lot of fun, and the cover is incredible — the colors and composition are just perfect.
That’s my list for today, kids. Have you read any of these? Do you have any picture books you can recommend? Let me know in the comments, and have a great weekend!