The bad things that happen to you in life don’t define misery–what you do with them does.”
~ Carrie, narrator of this wonderful YA historical fiction novel.
While Carrie is fictional, the true subject of this novel, Zora Neale Hurston, is real. Hurston is perhaps the most famous woman writer from the Harlem Renaissance era. This is a fictional tale from her childhood. The setting, Eatonsville, Florida is also very real. It was the first incorporated all-black township in the United States.
Carrie, Zora, and Teddy are all ten years old when the story begins. The storyline is a mystery that unravels slowly, in the tradition of a southern tall tale. Along with the mystery, the reader is treated to side plots of family dynamics and delicious details of life of early 1900s southern life. What makes the book even more unique is that the institutionalized racism of the period is treated in a multi-dimensional manner. The characters are dynamic, the setting is rich, and the descriptions are delectable.
There are many ways teachers of middle grade students could use this wonderful novel. It is an excellent way to introduce and/or enrich a study of the Harlem Renaissance, women writers, elements of literature, and much more.