Corinne La Mer is a courageous young girl whose Caribbean island is full of tales of otherworldly creatures called jumbies. Naturally, she doesn’t believe in such foolishness. Things change, though, when she retrieves her necklace from the forbidden mahogany forest and something follows her out. Soon the wicked Severine, a jumbie who appears like a beautiful woman, is dismantling Corinne’s world. With her friends Dru, Malik, and Bouki, Corinne fights off the jumbies who are trying to destroy her village and turn her father into a jumbie himself.
Scary stories are among the most frequently requested in my library. At least once a week, a kid wanders up to me and says, “Where are the scary stories?” This isn’t my favorite genre to read ever since Steven King scared the bejeesus out of me in high school with Pet Cemetery. As I lay awake in my bed, terrified to close my eyes, I thought, “Why am I doing this to myself? No more Steven King for me.” What’s true for Steven King has held true for other scary writers. Still, I read some of these books so that I can recommend them to kids.
The Jumbies was not particularly scary, certainly nothing like The Night Gardener or The Revenge of the Witch. There were a few scary moments, like when Severine is grabbing the children’s legs as they swim, but they have no idea what’s going on—but that kinda plays into my own personal terror of stuff in the water getting friendly with my legs.
What I really liked about this book was Baptiste’s ability to recreate a world from her childhood that I’m not familiar with—a Caribbean island. She effectively brought to life the legends she grew up hearing, and shared them without confusing her audience. I also liked her strong heroine, Corinne, who doesn’t hesitate to try and save both her father and her village.
I would put this book into the hands of kids who like strong heroines, (somewhat) scary stories, or stories about kids working together to solve problems.