I have been a fan of Tracey Baptiste’s Jumbies series since the first one hit shelves in 2015. They’re such a rich, spooky mix of Caribbean folklore and horror, with smart characters and fantastic pacing: every kid in my library knows that if they ask me for something scary, they’re going to get a Jumbies book handed to them. Fast forward six years, and Tracey Baptiste has a Jumbies picture book, so that I can start getting my itty bitties into all things Jumbie. Start them early, right?
Looking for a Jumbie, by Tracey Baptiste/Illustrated by Amber Ren,
(Sept. 2021, Balzer + Bray), $17.99, ISBN: 9780062970817
Naya is a little girl who just knows jumbies are real, even if her Mama says they only exist in stories. Naya heads off, Going on a Bear Hunt-style, to find some, and makes some… interesting friends along the way. Repeated, familiar phrasing that may remind readers of the classic We’re Going on a Bear Hunt runs throughout the book as Naya meets a new friend to join her quest: “We’re looking for a jumbie. We’re going to find a scary one”. She meets several interesting characters in the woods, all who seem to meet the characteristics of well-known jumbies (especially for older siblings and parents who’ve read the novels!), but they don’t seem terribly mean at all. They all manage to convince Naya that they’re not the monsters she’s looking for, and join her quest. Vibrant digital illustrations are colorful and eye-catching, and Naya, a young girl of color, is a brave heroine who forges through each spread. Jumbies are a friendly a group of monsters, and while Naya provides informational descriptions of these spooky monsters, the colorful group are very friendly and cartoon-like in appearance. Looking for a Jumbie could be a wonderful story to read at bedtime to kids who may be worried about things that go bump in the night, as jumbies offer practical reasons for their appearances that have nothing to do with being a monster. No nightmares here! I love, love, love this book.
Tracey Baptiste offers a field guide to jumbies on her website, along with further resources on her Jumbies novels for anyone interested in learning more.