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Book Club Kits: The Jumbies

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Book Summary

The jumbies are coming!

Corinne La Mer isn't afraid of anything. Not scorpions, not the boys who tease her, and certainly not jumbies. She knows that jumbies aren't real; they're just creatures parents make up to frighten their children. But on All Hallows' Eve, Corinne chases an agouti all the way into the forbidden woods. Those shining yellow eyes that follow her to the edge of the trees, they couldn't belong to a jumbie. Or could they?

Corinne begins to notice odd occurrences after that night. First she spots a beautiful stranger speaking to the town witch at the market. Then this same beauty, called Severine, turns up at Corinne's house, cooking dinner for her father. Danger is in the air. Sure enough, bewitching Corinne's father is the first step in Severine's plan to claim the entire island for the jumbies. Corinne must call on her courage and her friends and ancient magic to stop Severine and to save her island home.

Discussion Questions

1. Had you heard of any of the scary creatures that Tracey Baptiste describes in The Jumbies before reading the novel? If so, how did you first learn about the jumbie(s)? If not, which type of jumbie will you remember most?

2. In what ways is The Jumbies like folktales and fairy tales you’ve read? What makes it different?

3. What does Pierre mean when he says on page 19, “You know how the sea is. Nothing stays at the bottom forever”? After reading the story, does this meaning change?

4. On page 70, Corinne detects something wrong with the food Severine is cooking; her father doesn’t. Describe a time when you knew something was not quite right even though it seemed to others that everything was okay.

5. If Corinne’s mother were still alive, how might she have changed Corinne’s belief that “stories about jumbies are just things that grown people say when they make up stories at night”? Do you think Corinne’s mother would have told Corinne that jumbies were real? Why or why not?

6. Malik and Bouki are loyal friends who remind Corinne that sometimes everyone needs help. When has a friend helped you through something that was too big to handle on your own? Do you think the story would have ended as it did if Corinne hadn’t had the help of her friends along the way? How would the ending have been different?

7. Dru is timid and shy when she first meets Corinne, while Corinne is a risk taker. How do the girls change or grow over the course of their friendship? Why are the girls such good friends? On page 92, Corinne has an experience that makes her believe that jumbies are real. How does this revelation change Corinne?

8. On page 27, the white witch says, “If I help one, I have to help the other. For balance.” Over the course of The Jumbies, the white witch does provide each side with some help, but ultimately, does she stay true to her vow to keep things balanced? Did she make the right choices, such as giving Severine magic that would help her live among humans, and saving Corinne, Dru, Malik, and Bouki from drowning? How would The Jumbies have been different without the white witch?

9. Who has more right to live on the island, jumbies or humans? Why?

10. On page 164, the white witch says, “Everybody thinks they need magic. Everybody wants answers . . They want a bottle. Instant success! Something to drink, or sprinkle, or spill on the ground. They want magic from nothing. Magic doesn’t come from nothing. It comes from somewhere. And it isn’t so extraordinary. It’s just work. It’s just using your head and your heart.” Is there an example in the story that supports or disproves what the witch says? Explain.

11. How will Corinne’s life be different after The Jumbies ends? How might the discoveries about her family history change how the community treats Pierre and Corinne?

About Author

The Short Story

I am the New York Times bestselling author of Minecraft: The Crash, as well as the creepy Caribbean series The  Jumbies, which includes The Jumbies (2015), Rise of the Jumbies (2017), and The Jumbie God’s Revenge (scheduled for 2019). I’ve also written the contemporary YA novel Angel’s Grace and 9  non-fiction books for kids in elementary through high school.

I’m a former elementary school teacher, I do lots of author visits, and I’m on the faculty at Lesley University’s Creative Writing MFA program.

My name is pronounced buhTEEST.

The Long Story

I’ve wanted to write since I was three and my mother bought me an oversized illustrated Grimm’s Fairy Tales. It was so spellbindingly beautiful, I thought I wanted to live in its pages my entire life.

I decided to be a writer then, but I didn’t tell anyone until I was thirteen. I was inspired to write for kids after reading Rosa Guy’s “The Friends.”

Before I became a published author, I was a teacher. I taught mostly 2nd grade because it’s the AWESOMEST!

After teaching for a few years, I worked in educational publishing making reading and language arts textbooks for kids. Later, I worked for a publishing company editing non-fiction books for kids. I still do some freelance editing for publishers and individual clients, but mostly my days are spent writing my own books and working with students in the Lesley University MFA program.

I love helping writers with their own books for kids.

You can find me at school and library visits, writing conferences, book fairs, and teacher and library conferences.

My debut novel was Angel’s Grace. It was named one of the 100 best books for reading and sharing by NYC librarians. I’ve always liked librarians. It was also the first novel I ever tried to write (except for the one when I was 12, but let’s not go there.)


The Jumbies (2015) and Rise of the Jumbies (2017) are both Junior Library Guild Selections, and received numerous accolades including starred reviews from Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly, New York Public Libraries Staff Pick, Brightly’s Best Kids Books, We Need Diverse Books “Must Read,” named to Bank Street’s Best Books, Kirkus Best MG of the year, Publisher’s Weekly Best MG of the year, and NPR’s end year roundup.


Minecraft: The Crash debuted at #5 on the New York Times Bestseller list in July, 2018.