Root Magic

Walden Pond/HarperCollins/. Jan. 2021. 352p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062899576.
Gr 3 Up–Eleven-year-old Jezebel “Jez” Turner, who is Black, doesn’t fit in. All she wants is a friend. While some people embrace the root magic her family specializes in, others look down on it. Following her grandmother’s passing, Jez and her twin brother Jay get the opportunity to learn the root work that has been a part of their family for generations. These lessons and the protection they teach come just in time, as a racist deputy harasses their family and community and all kinds of evil come after them. It’s up to Jez to take what she’s learned and apply it in a way that allows her to remain true to herself. Though this seems like an overwhelming task, she luckily doesn’t have to face it alone. From chapter one, this title immerses the reader in the Gullah Geechee culture of South Carolina, giving readers a look into their funeral rites, spiritual practices, root work, language, and food. Throughout her lessons, Jez proves to be a natural root worker, and though she recognizes the value in her culture’s traditions, she also challenges these beliefs in order to decide for herself who her allies and enemies are. In Jez, readers will find a kindred spirit and will relate to her desire to protect her family and the people she cares about, even when it causes her to feel like she has an enormous weight on her shoulders. Readers, like Jez, will learn the importance of sharing that weight with the people who love them.
VERDICT A fantastical tale brimming with family traditions, friendship, and #BlackGirlMagic that is sure to be an excellent addition to any library’s middle grade collection.

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