Last week, children’s book author Tracey Baptiste visited The Voracious Reader bookstore in Larchmont, New York, to talk about her latest book Rise of the Jumbies(Algonquin 2017). Afterwards, Abbie had a chance to sit down with the award-winning author and ask Baptiste a few questions about characters and craft.
First, a little background: Raised in Trinidad on a steady diet of rich fairy tales filled with mythical beasts and monsters, Baptiste eventually decided that the world beyond her island ought to learn about these tales, too. Rise of the Jumbies is the second in the Jumbies series for middle-grade readers. Jumbies are creatures that roam the Carribbean at night, with the sole purpose to devour wayward children. Their queen is Mama Dl’eau, a merciless sea creature who turns people into stone.
In book one, Baptiste’s main character, Corrine, must stop a jumbie from taking over the island. Corrine returns in book two, which gets even darker with an exploration of the slave trade–important, Baptiste says, for all children to learn about, even when it’s difficult to fully comprehend. Rise of the Jumbies illustrates that though there’s much pain associated with Caribbean history, beauty can rise from it as well.
Listen to Abbie’s interview here.
(Yes, that’s a press badge–never leave home without it!)
UPDATE: Matt de la Pena was awarded the 2016 Newbery Medal 2016, and Christian Robinson received a Caldecott Honor.
Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la Peកa, illustrated by Christian Robinson; Putnam Books, $16.99, 32 pages, ages 4-6. (January 2015)
CJ and his grandmother board the Market Street bus after church every Sunday, and spend the afternoon working in the soup kitchen of a homeless shelter. One day, the boy wonders aloud why his family doesn’t have a car or an MP3 player, and his wise and patient grandmother responds with encouragement, gentle humor and love by showing CJ that there is beauty even in the muddy and mundane city streets. Brooklyn-based author Matt de la Peកa (A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis) captures the child’s inquisitive spirit as well as the time-worn perspective of an older generation with short, snappy sentences that convey just enough detail about class inequality without weighing the story down. (When CJ and his grandmother board the bus, Peកa’s ‘They sat right up front" recalls Rosa Parks and the civil rights movement in one simple sentence, and it’s perfect. ) San-Francisco native Christian Robinson (Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade; Josephine) expertly captures the charm and vibrancy of the City by the Bay with illustrations done in bright acrylic paint and collage. This celebration of life’s simple gifts and reminds us that what matters most isn’t the acquisition of stuff, but the time we spend with each other.