The Jumbies by Tracy Baptiste

jumbiesRobin Miles is one of my favorite audiobook narrators of all time, and I’ll pretty much listen to anything she narrates. I stumbled upon this delightful middle garden novel, inspired by Caribbean folklore, when searching for audiobook books under 5 hours (though this one is just over), and I was not disappointed.

Eleven year old Corinne has grown up on the edge of the mahogany forest on her island home in the Caribbean. She’s never been afraid of jumbies, and she’s pretty sure they’re just monster trickers that adults make up to frighten children, anyway. That’s until she runs into the forest one day and happens to see a pair of yellow eyes. Soon, Corinne discovers that not only are the jumbies real, but they’re dangerous, too, and one of them seems to be after her father. It’s up to her and a few of her friends to save her father, and their island, from the jumbies.

This was a fun and beautiful read, full of lush mythology in this book. Jumbies are a kind of trickster spirit that appear across much of Caribbean folklore. There are many kinds of jumbies, some of which appear in this book, but Baptiste also blends her own inventions with the traditional ones. Bits and pieces of the Haitian folktale “The Magic Orange Tree” also appear in the book. I know little about Caribbean folklore, but this book makes me want to read more of it, because I loved the diversity of jumbies–their combined trickery, devilry, ingenuity, and playfulness.

This is a fast-moving, action packed tale, overflowing with color and life. There’s a lot of exciting magic and adventure, but there are also lots of beautiful descriptions of the forest, the mountains, the sea, the village and the market, the island landscape. There’s also a lot in here about home and family and identity. It’s mostly a fun, folklore inspired adventure, but there’s more than one layer to it, and this makes it and enjoyable and worthwhile read for adults as well as kids.

Corinne is a great heroine, full of spunk, fearless, stubborn, and determined. Throughout the book, she struggle with her identity and her place in her family. Her mother died when she was very young, and it’s not until Corinne encounters the jumbies that she begins to understand who her mother was and her own memories of her. I loved this part of the book, because Corinne’s internal journey ended up being just as important as all her external bravery. In the end, Corinne decides who she is, where she comes from, and who she wants to be–essentially, she chooses her family.

The Jumbies is brimming with creativity, lovely magic, friendship, and lush tropical scenery. I’d recommend it to kids and adults alike, especially if you love folktales. And as with everything that Robin Miles narrates, the audio is stellar.



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