Published by Walden Pond Press
Summary: 11-year-old twins Jezebel and Jay have recently lost their grandmother, a woman well-known in their South Carolina island community for her rootwork, the use of potions and herbs for healing and magic. It’s 1963, and the civil rights movement is just starting to reach the island, personified by a concerned new sheriff, but other law officers, particularly Deputy Collins, still terrorize the Black population. Jay’s not much of a student, but has plenty of friends, while Jezebel has skipped the fifth grade and is struggling with a pack of mean girls in the sixth. A new girl named Susie is a fellow outsider, and, although she seems a little odd, Jez welcomes her friendship. When the twins’ uncle Doc starts teaching them rootwork, Jez discovers magical powers that no one in her family has suspected she possessed. The family needs every bit of knowledge and magic they can muster as threats start to come at them from both the material and the spiritual worlds. 352 pages; grade 4-7.
Pros: Is it horror, historical fiction, realistic fiction, or fantasy? This powerful novel encompasses all those genres and will surely be considered for both Newbery and Coretta Scott King recognition. As mentioned below, it’s taken me awhile to get around to reading this, and I’m glad I didn’t miss it, as it’s one of the best novels I’ve read in 2021.
Cons: The dark cover didn’t really grab me, and although this book came out in January, it’s taken until now (and it’s place on several Newbery prediction lists) to get me to read it.