Fairytales, folklore and fables allow us to believe in things beyond what our intuitive mind defines as normal. Tracey Baptiste allows her readers to enter into the world of the Caribbean in her interpretation of the Haitian folklore, “The Magic Orange Tree.” Baptiste creates her own dark and sinister character, Severine, to become the evil and corrupt leader of the Jumbies. Thanks to a fierce and brave young protagonist, Corinne, we are allowed to see goodness prevail despite the evils lurking in the dark forest beyond her house. Baptiste’s afterword gave me a better understanding of the characters and made The Jumbies an excellent read.
The setting is established immediately creating an atmosphere of darkness: the day is All Hallows Eve. This is the evening when the Jumbies are allowed to walk freely upon the island. The Jumbies are real beings who have dwelt on the island before man had declared possession, cut down the trees and limited the freedom of the Jumbies. Severine spots Corinne on All Hallows Eve and although humans haven’t seen a Jumbie for years, Corinne also spies Severine. Along with the detailed setting, the characters are detailed and easy to imagine. They are creatures who come lurking in the night to scare children and Baptiste does an amazing job allowing those creatures to stay with you after you have finished reading the book! (The little men who have feet facing backward saying “Oh oh oh” while capturing the souls of young children are just one example of creepy.)
Corinne knows wickedness abounds and as she does not seek trouble, trouble seems to seek Corinne. With the help of her new friends, and a necklace given to her from her deceased mother, Corinne has to discover the magic within her to help save the island from the evil Severine.
For the Store:
A section of fairy talks, folklore and fables can easily be displayed with this new read from Algonquin. The lack of Haitian children folklore allowed Baptiste to find a new market for a topic which didn’t previously exist. The moral in this story is good will prevail over evil, but choices/sacrifices must be made to have this happen. Aesop’s Fables first comes to mind, but are there others in your store? Display them, let readers travel the globe based on fables. What a unique way to travel.
In the classroom:
The Tortoise and the Hare, The Lion and the Mouse… the list goes on. But these are local tales. Use The Jumbies to be a platform for global travel. One of the middle school Common Core Standards is ‘Geography for Life.’ Using mental maps (Geography Standard 2) allow students to organize the people, places and environments found in their fables. Once you have created this map, go a step further (Geography Standard 4) describe and compare the differences found in different fables. This could be done with a partner, swapping their different fables and discussing/comparing them (Common Core Development Standard).
Geography Standard 1 is to understand and interpret types of maps. Through the use of fables a classroom teacher can have students use a map to locate the country. They could use both aerial maps and topographical kinds. (This covers two standards with one internet search!) If you want to create a little bit of a mess, create salt dough (http://www.wikihow.com/Create-Salt-Dough) and allow the students to create their own maps where their fable originates.
This book is a wonderful read for middle school students who do not know geography. It is amazing how few children know the United States, much less what is beyond our borders. Let your students create a global map, a mental map or create a poster (or another mode of reflection) depicting the characters/setting/moral of the fable they read (Geography Standard 6).
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (Algonquin Young Readers | 9781616204143 | April 28, 2015 | grades 3 – 7)