Review of Zora and Me: The Summoner

Zora and Me: The Summoner
by Victoria Bond
Middle School    Candlewick    256 pp.    g
10/20    978-0-7636-4299-0    $17.99
Paper ed.  978-1-5362-1667-7    $7.99

This final entry in the Zora and Me trilogy (most recently, The Cursed Ground, rev. 9/18) is the darkest, with “an epistolary prologue” noting the year in which the novel is set, 1905, as one of “grief and loss”; the book opens with a chain-gang escapee hunted down and lynched by white vigilantes and closes with fourteen-year-old Zora Neale Hurston leaving Eatonville, Florida, forever. This installment is a departure in that it focuses less on the mystery plot and more on Zora’s personal story: tensions between Zora and her self-aggrandizing preacher father escalate to the point where, after her mother’s death and her father’s remarriage, she leaves the family and moves away. But before that, there is a mystery for Zora and best friend/narrator Carrie to investigate — and as always in this series, it’s one tied to the realities of life in the Jim Crow South. After elderly resident Chester Cools dies, his grave is desecrated and his body goes missing. Several clues lead Zora and Carrie to believe he might be a zombie, and in fact the troubled man had referred to himself that way. The girls eventually learn that he had been lynched as a youth and survived: “Chester Cools understood perfectly what he had become: a zombie, which by another name meant the victim of trauma who’d never really healed.” An epilogue flashes forward to describe (fictional) Zora’s later life and (real-life) accomplishments; back matter fills in the story even more completely, with a biography, timeline, and bibliography.

From the November/December 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano
Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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