The Jumbies - Tracey Baptiste

Audience: Middle Grade

Format: Hardcover/Library Copy


Corinne La Mer's heart beat like wild drums as she ran through the forest.

- first sentence



The Jumbies takes place on a Caribbean island and is based on Caribbean fairy tales. Everyone in the village avoids the forest, but Corinne doesn’t believe in the fairy tales about jumbies and she isn’t scared. Corinne’s mother died when she was four and she and her father have taken care of each other ever since. One day, a strange and beautiful woman appears in the market and again later at Corinne’s house. Her name is Severine and while Corinne’s father likes her, Corinne senses something is not quite right with Severine. Corinne and her friends will have to gather all of their courage and work together (despite their differences) to save her father and the island from Severine and the jumbies.
Before I started reading, I looked for some background on the book. First to check where the story takes place and then to find out what jumbies are. I found an article about the book that specified some of the types of jumbies: douens (small creatures that lure children into the forest), soucouyant (old ladies who shed their skin and suck your blood), and lagahoo (a kind of wolf-man). So, when I came upon these creatures in the story, I had some idea of what they were. But Baptiste does a fantastic job of describing them in the story so I would have understood even without the background knowledge. I did come across a word in italics, used several times: chups. It was used along with the phrase “sucked her teeth.” Even using text clues, I wasn’t sure exactly what it meant, so I Googled it. Chups means to suck one’s teeth in disgust or as a sign of disrespect. I’m glad I looked it up because it added another layer of meaning.
There are a lot of hints in the book about who Corrine’s mom was and how it pertains to Severine. I had an idea what the truth was, but I was also excited to watch Corrine discover the truth. Corrine is a strong, clever, brave girl and a great role model for young girls. In the article about the book, Baptiste talks about how much she loved fairy tales as a kid but how she never saw herself in the books. I think it’s fantastic that she wrote this book (and the series) so that young girls like her can see themselves in her books and relate to them.