Zora and Me by Victoria Bond & T. R. Simon

zora-and-meCindy: “It’s funny how you can be in a story but not realize until the end that you were in one.” Zora and Me (Candlewick, 2010) spins the story of author Zora Neale Hurston’s childhood in Eatonville, Florida, the first incorporated black town in America. Told from best friend Carrie’s perspective, the novel begins with a chilling alligator attack. When Zora processes the horror she has seen and repackages it in story, she is accused of being the town’s biggest liar. Known for her “lying,” even at this young age, Zora continues to process the horrors she encounters as fanciful stories with an edge of magical realism to them. To process the tragic consequences of prejudice in the South in the late 1800s must have been difficult for adults…it’s no wonder that a child turned to story to deal with the race-related murder that takes place in her town. To help today’s children understand the times and the woman behind these stories, there are photos, interviews, and other information posted at the Zora and Me website. As in any good storytelling, it’s not just the overall story arc that compels attention…it’s the small details (like Zora’s lust for a gator book in the bookseller’s window) and their delivery that keep our attention and make us hunger for more stories.

Lynn: Cindy has been nagging me to read this book and I finally got around to it last week.  Oh how I wish I had listened to her sooner!  I fell in love with the voice of Carrie, with each and every character and with the rich storytelling.  Bond and Simon have done something very special here and I am in awe of their collaboration.  There is such a sense of wholeness to this book without any trace of the manuscript being “handed back and forth” between two writers.

I felt as if I had grown up in Eatonville right along with these two friends, with the sights and the smells and the experiences forming me too.  The book is filled with the sorts of wonderful phrases that I wanted to write down.

“That afternoon I was a patch on a healing blanket.”

“Mr. Ambrose had just showed Zora her seat of power and it wasn’t in a back row.”

“…a week later she had turned that bit of sand into a storied pearl.”

“The bad things that happen to you in life don’t define misery – what you do with them does.”

I loved that while each chapter is one whole and complete vignette, the chapters work together to create the bigger story.  This is a book that begs to be read aloud!  There is so much here that will delight and fascinate kids while still providing rich themes for discussion.  I thought I had my favorites picked for the Newbery but I am now doing some major realigning.  This is a gem.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

3 Comments on "Zora and Me by Victoria Bond & T. R. Simon"

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  1. scopenotes@gmail.com' Scope Notes says:

    Dang – a pretty ringing endorsement here. You definitely have me wanting to read it.

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