Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston (Alicia D. Williams)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston, written by Alicia D. Williams and illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara.

In a little town called Eatonville lived a little girl named Zora who had a passion for stories. She would hang around Joe Clarke’s general store whenever her mother sent her on an errand, listening to the townsfolk swap stories of Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox. She would invent stories of her own and offer to ride along with travelers and tell them tales of the local folklore. And despite the scoldings of her preacher father, her mother encouraged her storytelling, telling her to “jump at de sun.” Following this credo all her life, Zora left home young, working odd jobs and putting herself through school, impressing literary luminaries of her time with her collections of folklore and original stories. She then spent years traveling the Southern US and Caribbean collecting black folklore and publishing them into books, inviting the world to share the stories she loved.

A unique biography of a fascinating folklorist. Hurston was undoubtedly ahead of her time as a black woman in the early twentieth century, someone who deeply valued both her independence and the rich culture of African American folklore, and the tone of the story evokes a great deal of each; Zora’s journey is conveyed with energy and enthusiasm, using the same vernacular, idioms, and dialects that she used in her writing; this makes for an incredibly immersive reading experience, though it can trip up those unfamiliar with the colloquialisms when reading the book aloud. The artwork is equally dynamic and expressive, and cleverly integrates folklore characters to represent how Hurston’s passion for the tales of her childhood followed her throughout her life. The length, vocabulary, and a few of the story elements make this one best for older elementary and middle-grade readers; JJ was losing interest in the text midway through, but she loved the colorful and exciting art. Overall, a fascinating look at a one-of-a-kind writer, and we liked it a lot. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

The Hungry Ghosts (Julius Lester)

(Note: This review was delayed due to a family illness)

Halloween Week, Day 6: Hello, everyone! Today, we read The Hungry Ghosts, written by Julius Lester and illustrated by Geraldo Valério, an strange and magical tale of a little boy and his new, ghostly friends.

Malcolm David is sleeping in his room one night when he feels a cold breeze blow through his room, and he believes ghosts are the culprit. He asks his ringring bird to wake him the following night so he can investigate, and finds three ghosts making eerie wails. The ghosts assure him that they aren’t the ones making the noises – it’s their stomachs, for they are so hungry! Malcolm David wants to help, but first he has to figure out what ghosts can eat!

This is an interesting book. There is definitely an otherworldly quality to the story and narrative, and it reads like a traditional fairytale. This is both a positive and negative: while the language is flowing and rich with metaphor, it’s a bit lengthy for a baby bookworm. Older children would probably enjoy it much more, but JJ was definitely squirming only about halfway through the book. Still, the artwork is lovely and fitting with the supernatural theme, and this is definitely one to check out if you have older readers.