title: The Jumbies
author: Tracey Baptiste
date: Algonquin, 2016
main character: Corinne La Mer
Tracey Baptiste has been writing nonfiction and for quite a while. The Jumbies, her first book in this series, debuted in 2015. Rise of the Jumbies released in 2017 and The Jumbie God’s Revenge comes out this September. Baptise, a native of Trinidad, is quite familiar with the folklore that surrounds jumbies. In her author’s notes, she describes the creatures as “every bad-thinking, sneaky, trick-loving creature that comes out at night with the purpose of causing trouble.” Many different types of jumbies find their way into Baptiste’s novel and none of them are there to do good.
At the center of the story is Corinne La Mer, a young girl who lives alone with her father because her mother has died. Corinne is on her way to the sell oranges at the market for the very first time and she chooses to empower herself by wearing a pair of her father’s coveralls. On this same day, Serverine, a beautiful woman dressed in green comes to the market. And she’s a jumbie. Severine wants the island back for the jumbies, after all they were on this land long before people came. The people are afraid of the jumbies and their reactions to the jumbies are based in that fear.
Negotiating the distance between the two is the White Witch. Corinne comes to learn that she too has a role in determining the fate of this island. She and the people in her community live off the land and it is important to them. They fish and farm to sustain their way of life and the jumbies are a threat to them on many levels. Corrine is finding her own strength, her own power but in the middle of this, she learns something about herself that makes her doubt her own worth.
Corrine battles evil with her friend Drupatee Sareena Rootsingh, (Dru) who informs her of things jumbie, and Malik and Bouki, homeless brothers who are willing to give everything they have to help Corrine. Together, these friends seem unstoppable.
This story bring folktales from a different culture to young readers providing them with a different perspective on land and wealth. Here, power is literally and figuratively found in the land. Baptiste also questions the dynamics in male female relationships. Colorism, with so much privilege being given to the White Witch, is a very Caribbean touch. Corrine seems to be an ordinary girl who does extraordinary things. And that ordinary touch is what makes this book so scary!