Review of Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston

Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston
by Alicia D. Williams; illus. by Jacqueline Alcántara
Primary, Intermediate    Dlouhy/Atheneum    48 pp.    g
1/21    978-1-5344-1913-1    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5344-1914-8    $10.99

“In a town called Eatonville…lived a girl who was attracted to tales like mosquitos to skin.” So begins the evocatively descriptive account of the life of acclaimed storyteller Zora Neale Hurston. Young Zora spent the favorite parts of her day at Joe Clarke’s general store, where she would listen to her elders tell fantastical tales of “how that trickster Brer Rabbit always got the best of Brer Fox,” the origin of “squinch owls,” and more. She didn’t mind passing them on, either; perched atop the gatepost that led to her house, Zora would relate those tales — and a few of her own — to any passerby who would listen. While some family members chastised her for “lying,” Zora’s mother encouraged her consistently to “jump at de sun. You might not land on de sun, but at least you’d get off de ground.” These “jumps” carried Zora to Howard University, then on to Harlem (and its burgeoning Renaissance), and right back down to Eatonville, where she continued to do what she did best — trade, tell, and write down stories. Rich with down-home vernacular, the text immerses readers in the Southern tradition of oral storytelling. The illustrations prove just as dynamic, with vibrant spreads bursting with brilliant-toned hues and enjoyable details to notice (e.g., the fashionable hats famously worn by Hurston — modeled by anthropomorphic animals). Snippets of folktales are paneled loosely alongside the biographical story; Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox are no respecters of borders, with both making multiple appearances. Back matter includes an author’s note, sources, and additional reading, for both “Youngins” and “Older Folk.”

From the March/April 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Eboni Njoku
Eboni Njoku is a children’s librarian at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library Branch of the DC Public Library.

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