Review of Root Magic

Root Magic
by Eden Royce
Intermediate, Middle School    Walden/HarperCollins    352 pp.    g
1/21    978-0-06-289957-6    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-289960-6    $8.99

Eleven-year-old Jezebel’s family has done “rootwork” for generations. In 1963, many of the people on their South Carolina island frequent her grandmother and uncle’s cabin for the healing potions they make, while others, including “other Negroes,” ridicule them as old-fashioned and ignorant. Deputy Collins, a white police officer, has made it his mission to harass and terrorize the root workers. When Gran dies, Jezebel and her twin brother, Jay, begin lessons in rootwork with Uncle Doc. As Jezebel begins to learn “root magic,” she also begins to notice more about her own powers. After hearing a voice in the marsh, Jezebel discovers that her spirit can fly free from her body and begins to take nightly trips around the island. But those trips come at a cost. Over time, Jezebel learns how to use her powers to protect those she loves. Royce sets her novel during a time of social change (the integration of South Carolina schools, the assassination of JFK) while introducing readers to centuries-old Gullah traditions. For fans of Tracey Baptiste’s The Jumbies, this book, with its rich language and evocative setting, is a great addition to the literature based on folklore that has sustained many people of color in their island communities.

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

Nicholl Denice Montgomery

Nicholl Denice Montgomery is currently working on a PhD at Boston College in the curriculum and instruction department. Previously, she worked as an English teacher with Boston Public Schools.

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