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

Zora and Me.  By Victoria Bond and T. R. Simon. Candlewick Press, 2010. 170 pages. $16.99

Plot: It’s the early 1900’s in Eatonville, Florida and best friends Zora, Carrie, and Teddy have several mysterious circumstances on their hands.  Can old Mr. Pender really turn into a gator?  Traveling turpentine worker, Ivory, met the three friends near their favorite tree in the woods and sang them a beautiful tune with his guitar; a week later he was dead.  Who killed him and why?  Zora, a keen storyteller from a young age, is determined to find out the truth, not matter how painful it may be.  As told by Carrie, Zora and Me is a fictional account of the childhood of acclaimed writer, Zora Neale Hurston.  The story traces the adventures and discoveries of three best friends as they confront issues of race and identity, loss and death, and love and hope.

Review: Warm and charming from the first line, Zora and Me blends real life circumstances with the imagination and open-minded perspective of a young person.  Though the book is fictional, the authors clearly thoroughly researched both Zora Neale Hurston as well as the town and times of her childhood.  Zora is a delight as a bright, earnest, sincere girl, and her loyal and loving friend Carrie makes a great partner.  Their other best friend, Teddy, is an equally charming character, though seen less than the two girls.  The topics covered are serious and important, and the book’s writing makes these topics accessible to tweens. Zora and Me is overall an enjoyable story with an interesting and unique historical perspective as well as a book that adds much needed racial diversity to the mystery genre.  The book also includes a biography, time line, and bibliography of Zora Neale Hurston.

Genre(s): Mystery, Historical Fiction

Reading/Interest Level: 9-13 years

Selected Awards: 2011 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent, 2011 Edgar Award Nominee Best Juvenile, 2010 Kirkus Review’s Best Children’s Books of the Year List

Available in: Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook

ISBN: 978-0763643003

Subjects: friendship, growing up, racism, passing, Florida,

Character names:

Carrie: Narrator, best friend of Zora and Teddy, brave, loyal friend, lives with her mother, her father’s whereabouts have been unknown since he left for out of town work six months earlier

Zora: Dreamer, excellent story-teller, brave, strong in her convictions, loyal friend, lives with her mother, father, older sister, and baby brother

Teddy: Loyal friend, knows a lot about and cared for animals, lives on a farm with his mother, father, and two older brothers, Teddy has chores on the farm to do every day, so cannot always go on adventures with Carrie and Zora

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