Friend Friday

Tracey Baptiste looks sweet and innocent but she can write one heck of a creepy story, as her first book, The Jumbies, proved. Now, she’s back with a sequel, Rise of the Jumbies (Algonquin Young Readers), though you will have to wait until September 17, 2017 to read it, unless you can get your hand on an ARC. I have every confidence it will be worth the wait!

Tracey Baptiste

In September the jumbies are back! Because you can’t keep a bad jumbie down.

Growing up in Trinidad & Tobago with stories of these malevolent spirits made me scared and excited at the possibility that a jumbie might come to my door and snatch me up as food. Jumbies were talked about with frequency, and as if they could be anyone—literally anyone—because during the day some of them might look perfectly normal like a school teacher, or the lady selling sweets in the neighborhood store. But at night, they turned, and they came to eat you.

It was a lot of fun for me to bring this oral tradition to the page in The Jumbies (2015). My intention was to create the scary feeling of a Grimm’s Fairy Tale with the adventure my son specifically asked for. I obliged with creepy creatures and a cliffhanger that ends with a kid actually hanging off a cliff.

In the sequel, Rise of the Jumbies, we get out of the forest and go on an undersea adventure with the worst jumbie of them all—Mama D’Leau. She rules the sea, and the mermaids who live in it. This allowed me to address the all-white world of mermaids that I had come across in books. In my sea mermaids come in every hue, and those who sun themselves on rocks are of course imbued with all the melanin they could hope to protect them from life in warm waters under the constant glare of the sun.

But there was something else I wanted to add in Rise of the Jumbies. In the original, I played with the idea of Native cultures being squeezed out of their homes as others came to their land and took it over. I also injected it with a bit of reality: the people who came did so aboard slave ships, a reality for many who live in the Caribbean. And what happens when two cultures collide? Who is the other? Who owns the land? In Rise of the Jumbies, I go a bit further. As the children and mermaids cross the Atlantic, they are faced with the realities of the transatlantic slave trade.

While both The Jumbies and Rise of the Jumbies are meant to be rollicking adventures where courageous kids go toe to toe with monstrous creatures and win, I also wanted to inject some of the real monstrosities that kids will have to face in their lives. Many kids have in fact already faced the monsters of racism and feeling “othered”. They deserve heroes who can show them that monsters—no matter what kind– can be defeated. And in The Jumbies and the forthcoming Rise of the Jumbies, I hope I have given that to them.

Rise of the Jumbies goes on sale on September 19th. It is available for preorder here.

Thanks for having me, Kirby!

Tracey Baptiste is the author of the forthcoming middle grade novel RISE OF THE JUMBIES, a sequel to THE JUMBIES, which was a Junior Library Guild selection, a We Need Diverse Books “Must Read,” a New York Public Libraries Staff Pick, and a Bank Street Books Best of 2016. Her other 12 books include ANGEL’S GRACE and THE TOTALLY GROSS HISTORY OF ANCIENT EGYPT. She volunteers with We Need Diverse Books, The Brown Bookshelf, and I Too Arts Collective. She teaches in Lesley University’s Creative Writing MFA program, and runs the editorial company Fairy Godauthor. Find her online at