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Review: Zora and Me (Victory Bond and TR Simon)

Title: Zora and Me
Author: Victoria Bond and TR Simon
Genre: Young Adult mystery (aimed at grades 4 to 7)
Pages: 192
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Challenges: Mystery and Suspense, PoC
FTC Disclosure: I bought this audio book for my iPhone
Summary (from the book's website): Although a book for children, this is not a simple tale. Told from the perspective of Zora's best friend Carrie, the novel sees the girls confront racial duplicity in a struggle to hold on to their innocence and protect their hometown. The town has its integrity tested, and ultimately its existence, when a young turpentine worker is found decapitated by the railroad tracks. His death coincides with Zora's imaginary creation of a gator king that lurks in the nearby marshes waiting to steal human souls. As the two girls unravel the mystery of the gator king, they also stumble onto a complicated triangle fueled by lies, secrets and envy. They themselves become the key that unlocks the mystery, and the unlikely saviors of Eatonville; in the process, Zora learns that home is not only where you're from but what you carry inside of yourself.

Review: This is the only work not written by Zora Neale Hurston herself ever to be endorsed by the Zora Neale Hurston Trust and there is a reason for that. This book is beautifully written, creating characters that come alive as the story unfolds; it is a tale of deceit, family, and community.

We only know Zora through her best friend, Carrie, but the two are inseparable, going to school together as well as spending their afternoons and evenings at Zora's house and going on adventures throughout their town of Eatonville, Florida. I liked their friendship and their relationships with the other members of their town (the local white priest, their parents, and other adults that they learn to trust).

There are a lot of issues that come up in this book, but it doesn't feel like an "issues" story, if that makes any sense. Race, poverty, equality, trust, gossip and rumors and their effect on a community, it's all in there. And, there's a mystery, but it doesn't read like a typical mystery novel. Instead it reads like some of the best southern literature, flowing over the narrator's tongue like honey. Yes, I listened to the audio, which was narrated beautifully by Channie Waites.

Geography Connection

(photo credit from the Zora and Me website)

Click to see my updated Google Map. Another Florida-based story. This is Florida book number four and links to the other three are below. Eatonville, Florida was the first incorporated African-American town in the nation and was seen by many as a Black Floridian Eden. Zora Neale Hurston's father eventually became mayor of Eatonville.
  1. Miles from Ordinary by Carol Lynch Williams
  2. Unlocked by Ryan G. Van Cleave
  3. When the Stars go Blue by Ceridad Ferrer

1 comment

Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

I've been "encouraging" my 10 year old to read this...her black history month project was on Zora Neale Hurston, and she LOVED researching her. My husband is taking her to Chicago to see Spunk produced by The Court Theatre -- one of ZNH's plays.