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Thursday, September 6, 2018

Review and Giveaway: Zora & Me Series by T.R. Simon and Victoria Bond

Today I'm reviewing and giving away both books in the middle-grade Zora & Me Series from Candlewick Press...

Zora & Me 
(Zora & Me #1) By Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon 
December 27, 2011 
Candlewick Press 
Source: paperback from pub for review 

Racial duplicity threatens an idyllic African American community in the turn-of-the-century South in a dazzling debut inspired by the early life of Zora Neale Hurston. 

Whether she’s telling the truth or stretching it, Zora Neale Hurston is a riveting storyteller. Her latest creation is a shape-shifting gator man who lurks in the marshes, waiting to steal human souls. But when boastful Sonny Wrapped loses a wrestling match with an elusive alligator named Ghost — and a man is found murdered by the railroad tracks soon after — young Zora’s tales of a mythical evil creature take on an ominous and far more complicated complexion, jeopardizing the peace and security of an entire town and forcing three children to come to terms with the dual-edged power of pretending. Zora’s best friend, Carrie, narrates this coming-of-age story set in the Eden-like town of Eatonville, Florida, where justice isn’t merely an exercise in retribution, but a testimony to the power of community, love, and pride. A fictionalization of the early years of a literary giant, this astonishing novel is the first project ever to be endorsed by the Zora Neale Hurston Trust that was not authored by Hurston herself. 

The Cursed Ground 
(Zora & Me #2) 
By T.R. Simon 
September 11, 2018 
Candlewick Press 
Source: ARC from pub for review 
A powerful fictionalized account of Zora Neale Hurston's childhood adventures explores the idea of collective memory and the lingering effects of slavery. 

"History ain't in a book, especially when it comes to folks like us. History is in the lives we lived and the stories we tell each other about those lives." 

When Zora Neale Hurston and her best friend, Carrie Brown, discover that the town mute can speak after all, they think they've uncovered a big secret. But Mr. Polk's silence is just one piece of a larger puzzle that stretches back half a century to the tragic story of an enslaved girl named Lucia. As Zora's curiosity leads a reluctant Carrie deeper into the mystery, the story unfolds through alternating narratives. Lucia's struggle for freedom resonates through the years, threatening the future of America's first incorporated black township -- the hometown of author Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960). In a riveting coming-of-age tale, award-winning author T. R. Simon champions the strength of a people to stand up for justice.  

The Zora & Me series, which includes book one, Zora & Me, and book two, The Cursed Ground, is a fictionalized account of the childhood of famous writer Zora Neale Hurston during the turn of the 20th century. Each book in the series is narrated by Carrie Brown, best friend to fictionalized Zora, and takes place in the very real Eatonville, Florida, the first all African-American established and inhabited town in the USA (where the real Zora lived).  

Both Zora & Me books offer readers complex mysteries with immense impacts on their characters and history. In book one, Zora & Me, Carrie and Zora find themselves wrapped up in a murder mystery that may or may not involve an alligator man. While in book two, The Cursed Ground, Carrie and Zora uncover a mystery that stretches back to the horrific times of slavery, and the story switches back and forth from Carrie’s POV in their present to the POV of an enslaved girl named Lucia.  

This series shines a light on an often overlooked and dismissed era and community, bringing the joys, obstacles, and daily lives of African Americans during this time period (and throughout history) to life, and celebrating the history, culture, and achievements of this community and people.  With an authentic and unwavering voice, these stories offer captivating and exciting mysteries, while deftly exploring themes of racism, poverty, slavery, family, friendship, and community.  Young Zora is a dazzling, delightful, and larger than life character, with a beautiful imagination. 

With wonderful storytelling, rich history, and engaging characters, this series is sure to inspire, move, and entertain young readers. 

MY RATING (for both books) 
4/5 Cupcakes

Victoria Bond and T. R. Simon met ten years ago while working together in publishing and became fast friends. After kicking around the idea of a collaboration for years, the idea of writing a middle-grade novel about Zora Neale Hurston emerged, and both knew they had stumbled into the project of their dreams. Excited and humbled by the opportunity to expose young readers to a seminal figure in twentieth-century American letters, they discovered that Zora’s life as both field anthropologist and writer custom-fit their own backgrounds. T. R. (Tanya) Simon has an MA in anthropology, while Victoria Bond holds an MFA in creative writing. 

Win a set of Zora & Me books!
Candlewick has offered two sets of both books (paperback of book one and hardcover of book two) for two winners.
-US/CAN only
-no PO boxes
-ends 9/14/2018
-winners will be emailed and must claim prizes within 48 hours
-Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes

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Danielle H. said...

I love to read mysteries! These books sound fun.

Dan Denman said...

I like the book cover designs. Zora sounds like a great character!