Thursday, October 07, 2010

Review: Zora and Me

by Victoria Bond and T. R. Simon. Candlewick, 2010. (review copy) I picked this up at ALA this summer and have greatly enjoyed it. Actually, I didn't make it to the Candlewick table in time to snag one but a friend knew I would like to see it so she grabbed one and saved it for me. I was so pleased!

Zora Neale Hurston, a highly talented anthropologist, folklorist and novelist, was born in Alabama in 1891 and grew up in Florida. She is known for documenting the folklore of Caribbean and southern Blacks, and her candid, moving portrayals of Black life in America. She was an important part of the Harlem Renaissance. Her best known novels include Their Eyes Were Watching God and Mules and Men. You can hear excerpts read aloud at the Official Zora Neale Hurston website.

This middle grade novel has received the endorsement of the Zora Neale Hurston Trust. Written from the point of view of Nora's best friend, it shows what she may have been like as a child growing up in the first incorporated Black town of Eatonville, Florida.

Zora the girl is a born story-teller; a wild eyed, mischief-seeking, romance-loving pot-stirrer of a girl. She is a scamp and  a bundle of energy, bursting with curiosity and passion for life. She is also afraid of ghosts, old voodoo root women and man-eating alligators. When she and her best friend hear of a murder on the train tracks she starts to believe her own stories of a magical half man-half gator roaming the edges of town.

An undercurrent in the story is the dissatisfaction children find in the ways of grownups in a world limited by racism. Little Zora insists upon her right to inquire and seek knowledge to satisfy her curiosity, even in the face of her father's wrath for stepping out of her place. There are many levels to this book and I would love to hear a discussion between students who have read and thought about all the complexities alluded to here.

Check out the book's website at http://www.zoraandme.com/ for background, historical photos, information, crafts, recipes, interview with the authors, and other features. Here's the book discussed on Goodreads. An interesting post at Scrub a Dub Tub compared the story to Beyond Freedom by Mattie Smith. I would love to hear from anyone else who's read it. What did you think?

2 comments:

MissAttitude said...

I love Their Eyes were Watching God but I haven't read anything else by Ms. Hurston. I want to read all her books as well as this biography. I have yet to come across a Candlewick book I didn't like :)

I love that this was a collaborative effort between the two authors and that they show an awe-inspiring literary figure in her childhood. Makes her seem more human and down to earth.

Andromeda Jazmon said...

You are so right Miss Attitude! It is a really cool collaboration. I enjoyed Their Eyes very much. We also have some of here children's books, which are folktales. Six Fools and Lies and Other Tall Tales are funny and clever. The kids in my school love to hear them read aloud.