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

23 Jul

Young  Zora is a good friend and confidant to the narrator, a young girl named Carrie. Zora is a gifted and imaginative storyteller whose curiosity and naivety lead Zora, and her friends on adventures that have the potential of ripping apart their racially complicated community. This fictional story is based on the life and short stories of Zora Neale Hurston and combines history, folklore and imagination in an engaging tale. As I began reading, I half expected this story to be a reworking of The Boy who Cried Wolf, with the children learning their lessons about the dangers of making up stories. The book surprised and delighted me; Zora’s imagination wasn’t so far off from the eccentric realities of her community and times.

Zora and Me is a book that is just meant for reading aloud. As I read, I often stopped to re-read a paragraph aloud to myself. The language rolls off the tongue smoothly and is reminiscent of Hurston’s own writings, but accessible to a younger audience.   This will be a terrific book to share with students when teaching about African-American history, culture and accomplishments. I like that the young protagonist is a smart, funny and imaginative African-American female—and I like it even more that she was a real person, and an accomplished and acclaimed writer.   Many passages from this book would work very well in writing lessons when talking about using voice in writing.  For parents and teachers, this book would be a nice book to read and compare with To Kill a Mockingbird.  (see my review at http://wp.me/pYHNm-x)

Zora and Me is published by Candlewick Press. This review is based on the Advanced Reading Copy. Recommended for ages 10 and up. The finished book will include a short biography of Zora Neale Hurston, an annotated bibliography of her works and a timeline of her life. This book is the only book not written by Hurston herself, which has been approved by the Zora Neale Hurston Trust

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