Author(s): Victoria Bond, T.R. Simon
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Date: October 12, 2010
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery
Winner of the 2011 John Steptoe New Talent (Author) Award!
Racial duplicity threatens an idyllic African American community in the turn-of-the-century South in a dazzling debut inspired by the early life of Zora Neale Hurston.Whether she’s telling the truth or stretching it, Zora Neale Hurston is a riveting storyteller. Her latest creation is a shape-shifting gator man who lurks in the marshes, waiting to steal human souls. But when boastful Sonny Wrapped loses a wrestling match with an elusive alligator named Ghost — and a man is found murdered by the railroad tracks soon after — young Zora’s tales of a mythical evil creature take on an ominous and far more complicated complexion, jeopardizing the peace and security of an entire town and forcing three children to come to terms with the dual-edged power of pretending. Zora’s best friend, Carrie, narrates this coming-of-age story set in the Eden-like town of Eatonville, Florida, where justice isn’t merely an exercise in retribution, but a testimony to the power of community, love, and pride. A fictionalization of the early years of a literary giant, this astonishing novel is the first project ever to be endorsed by the Zora Neale Hurston Trust that was not authored by Hurston herself.
Last year, I read a great biography about Zora Neale Hurston by Valerie Boyd, so I was looking forward to reading this young adult novel with Zora as a young child. Fourth graders, Zora and her best friends, Carrie and Teddy, search for the truth when a turpentine worker’s body is found dead and beheaded on the railroad tracks. The book is told from Carrie’s point of view; hence, the “Me” in the title. The action takes place in Zora Neale Hurston’s hometown of Eatonville, Florida.
I can see why this book was endorsed by the Zora Neale Hurston Trust (the only project to be given such an honor, not by Hurston herself). Bond and Simon uncannily capture the spirit of Hurston through the young Zora. Zora displays a knack for tall tales, as she convinces the other schoolchildren there’s a gator-man (half-man, half-gator) in their community. If you have read Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, then you will recognize Joe Clarke’s store with the men whiling away the day on the front porch. I love how the authors pay attention to the smallest details, for example, that there were only 45 states at the time.
The authors brillantly capture Hurston’s traveling spirit and natural curiosity in little Zora. This magical story is a must read for Hurston fans.
Zora and Me has been nominated for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award and won the 2011 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award.
Music I’m Blogging To: The Lady Killer by Cee Lo Green