This middle school chapter book features Zora Neale Hurston and her best
friend as 4th graders. Set in Hurston’s hometown of Eatonville, Fla.,
the novel paints a picture of life in this all-black township,
incorporated soon after emancipation. The story shows how love, cultural
affirmation, and resiliency permeate the children’s lives, even as the
horrors of racism in the world beyond penetrate the warm embrace of the
community. The linguistic beauty and the book’s historical and
analytical depth honor the quality of Zora Neale Hurston’s work. This is
the only book not written by Hurston herself that is endorsed by the
Zora Neale Hurston Trust. The book offers vivid language and numerous
passages that can serve as writing prompts or examples for students. It
is an easy-to-read yet sophisticated chapter book for middle and high
“Because I live in Florida and this novel features a young Zora Neale Hurston, I was intrigued, but this book's charm extends far beyond race and state lines. On one hand it is a great little adventure story, complete with real gators and ghostly soul-stealing Gator Men. But spooky tales pale beside the ugly truths of bigotry and injustice in turn-of-the-century small-town Florida, and murder finds its way to their all-black Eden of Eatonville. Like the best of children's literature, the lessons of community, love, and pride are found in these pages, wrapped in a riveting story children will remember.”
— Leslie Reiner, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL
Winner of the 2011 John Steptoe New Talent (Author) Award!
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.