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A historical ghost story set in South Carolina in the 1960s—a tale of courage, friendship, and Black Girl Magic. It’s 1963, and things are changing for Jezebel Turner. Her beloved grandmother has just passed away. The local police deputy won’t stop harassing her family. With school integration arriving in South Carolina, Jez and her twin brother, Jay, are about to begin the A historical ghost story set in South Carolina in the 1960s—a tale of courage, friendship, and Black Girl Magic. It’s 1963, and things are changing for Jezebel Turner. Her beloved grandmother has just passed away. The local police deputy won’t stop harassing her family. With school integration arriving in South Carolina, Jez and her twin brother, Jay, are about to begin the school year with a bunch of new kids. But the biggest change comes when Jez and Jay turn eleven—and their uncle, Doc, tells them he’s going train them in rootwork. Jez and Jay have always been fascinated by the African American folk magic that has been the legacy of her family for generations—especially the curious potions and powders Doc and Gran would make for the people on their island. But Jez soon finds out that her family’s true power goes far beyond small charms and elixirs...and not a moment too soon. Because when evil both natural and supernatural comes to show itself in town, it’s going to take every bit of the magic she has inside her to see her through.


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A historical ghost story set in South Carolina in the 1960s—a tale of courage, friendship, and Black Girl Magic. It’s 1963, and things are changing for Jezebel Turner. Her beloved grandmother has just passed away. The local police deputy won’t stop harassing her family. With school integration arriving in South Carolina, Jez and her twin brother, Jay, are about to begin the A historical ghost story set in South Carolina in the 1960s—a tale of courage, friendship, and Black Girl Magic. It’s 1963, and things are changing for Jezebel Turner. Her beloved grandmother has just passed away. The local police deputy won’t stop harassing her family. With school integration arriving in South Carolina, Jez and her twin brother, Jay, are about to begin the school year with a bunch of new kids. But the biggest change comes when Jez and Jay turn eleven—and their uncle, Doc, tells them he’s going train them in rootwork. Jez and Jay have always been fascinated by the African American folk magic that has been the legacy of her family for generations—especially the curious potions and powders Doc and Gran would make for the people on their island. But Jez soon finds out that her family’s true power goes far beyond small charms and elixirs...and not a moment too soon. Because when evil both natural and supernatural comes to show itself in town, it’s going to take every bit of the magic she has inside her to see her through.

30 review for Root Magic

  1. 5 out of 5

    Gavin

    Atmospheric and all-round-fantastic, a story of twins who discover family magic in their historical setting of South Carolina in the 1960s. Jez and Jay are twins who have just lost their Gran, and from her death they discover the art of rootwork that their family practices. It protects them from legendary spirits from Gullah folktales, including haints and boo hags. Not only are there dangerous spirits, but the Turners have to keep safe from racial prejudice and rely on each other to see them th Atmospheric and all-round-fantastic, a story of twins who discover family magic in their historical setting of South Carolina in the 1960s. Jez and Jay are twins who have just lost their Gran, and from her death they discover the art of rootwork that their family practices. It protects them from legendary spirits from Gullah folktales, including haints and boo hags. Not only are there dangerous spirits, but the Turners have to keep safe from racial prejudice and rely on each other to see them through. The atmosphere in this is one of the main reasons I love this book so much. The marshes were painted vividly, and the sensory writing style allowed me to really 'feel' the words and not just read them. This is carried throughout the book and it never let up. So it's safe to say that I fell in love with the writing style and the pictures painted by the author's words. A story that is absolutely gorgeously told. Jez and Jay are two very strong protagonists. I loved their journey together, from their fighting but also their unity. They act like true siblings and even when they seem to be at odds with each other, there's a great understanding between them too. They're both so similar yet so different and they make decisions that felt refreshing in middle grade. The family dynamic in general just felt so strong and there were so many moments that were rather touching between them. The way rootwork is integrated into this novel is just beautiful too and by the end of the book, I just didn't want to leave this family. I absolutely adored this book with my whole heart and it really held my interest throughout. There were some turns by the end I didn't really expect and I just found this just one of the best middle grade books I've read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Justina Ireland

    Excellent fun! I highly recommend. Bonus for a sensitive depiction of Gullah Geechee culture. Loved it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ms. Woc Reader

    Root Magic is set in 1963 and follows young Jezebel Turner who is turning 11 and entering sixth grade. While her twin brother Jay has no problems making friends that's not the case for Jez. Her peers who often ostracize her because of her family's connection to root work leaving her to feel inferior and be a bit of a longer. Skipping a grade and starting school with new kids is hard enough especially after the recent passing of her Gran. Now Uncle Doc has also decided Jez and Jay should begin le Root Magic is set in 1963 and follows young Jezebel Turner who is turning 11 and entering sixth grade. While her twin brother Jay has no problems making friends that's not the case for Jez. Her peers who often ostracize her because of her family's connection to root work leaving her to feel inferior and be a bit of a longer. Skipping a grade and starting school with new kids is hard enough especially after the recent passing of her Gran. Now Uncle Doc has also decided Jez and Jay should begin lessons in root work. This is a beautiful historical novel that portrays Gullah life in the 1960s. I loved that it doesn't shy away from how Black people are treated during that time but also doesn't overly harp on it. This isn't a story that's all gloom and doom. This is a story about a Black family celebrating life, being apart of a community, and carrying on traditions that have been passed down for generations. I received an arc from the publisher in exchange for honest review See in depth review https://womenofcolorreadtoo.blogspot....

  4. 4 out of 5

    Diana | Book of Secrets

    ★ Magical Middle Grade Historical Fiction ★ Reading ROOT MAGIC was such a joy — can I give it more than five stars? The protagonist, 11-year old Jezebel Turner, is a mighty and memorable middle grade heroine. Set in South Carolina in 1963, the story follows Jezebel as she begins to study rootwork, a tradition passed down from her Gullah ancestors. Root magic is misunderstood by many to be something evil, but her Uncle Doc is teaching her the good ways it helps the community. She must use her newl ★ Magical Middle Grade Historical Fiction ★ Reading ROOT MAGIC was such a joy — can I give it more than five stars? The protagonist, 11-year old Jezebel Turner, is a mighty and memorable middle grade heroine. Set in South Carolina in 1963, the story follows Jezebel as she begins to study rootwork, a tradition passed down from her Gullah ancestors. Root magic is misunderstood by many to be something evil, but her Uncle Doc is teaching her the good ways it helps the community. She must use her newly developed powers to save herself and her family from malevolent forces threatening them, and not just otherworldly ones. There's so much I loved about this book, and Jezebel is such a relatable character. What stood out for me in particular was the message of friendship and discovering it in someone unexpected. The story was suspenseful and creepy at times, which kept me glued to the pages. The ending chapter was so moving, and of course, I was sad to see it end! I would love to read a sequel about Jezebel and her family, and find out what their futures hold. ♥

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jen (LOHF/Book Den)

    My ultimate hope for this book is that teachers and librarians who are looking for books for their spooky-loving readers will add this book to their shelves. There's so much history and Gullah culture in Root Magic. Set in South Carolina in 1963, it follows Jezebel, her twin brother Jay, and their family just after the passing of their grandmother. The time has come for Jezebel and Jay to learn about rootwork and discover what they are capable of. Can we also talk about the disturbing content in m My ultimate hope for this book is that teachers and librarians who are looking for books for their spooky-loving readers will add this book to their shelves. There's so much history and Gullah culture in Root Magic. Set in South Carolina in 1963, it follows Jezebel, her twin brother Jay, and their family just after the passing of their grandmother. The time has come for Jezebel and Jay to learn about rootwork and discover what they are capable of. Can we also talk about the disturbing content in middle grade horror, please? People have such misconceptions about MG and YA, and I'm telling you - MG is where the disturbing stuff is at lately! Root Magic touched on my spookiest fear as a girl. This book would have simultaneously terrified me and captured my heart. Then it went places I didn't know I needed to fear! Root Magic did feel like a debut novel, but there was so much depth to it. I loved the characters, the family, the friendships, the emotions, the horrors. It checked all of my middle grade boxes. I'm planning to read a lot of middle grade horror this year, and I'm anxious to see if any of them will be able to top Root Magic. 4.5/5 stars

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rajiv

    [Blog]::[Youtube]::[Twitter]::[Instagram]::[Pinterest]::[Bloglovin] I loved reading “Root Magic.” There are so many aspects that I appreciated in the tale. Firstly, I loved the timeline. The author nicely connected the characters to what was happening in the 60s in South Carolina. I also loved the beautiful shout-outs she makes to famous poets like Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks. Reading about this trivia inspired me to read some of their works. Secondly, I loved the theme of Rootwork an [Blog]::[Youtube]::[Twitter]::[Instagram]::[Pinterest]::[Bloglovin] I loved reading “Root Magic.” There are so many aspects that I appreciated in the tale. Firstly, I loved the timeline. The author nicely connected the characters to what was happening in the 60s in South Carolina. I also loved the beautiful shout-outs she makes to famous poets like Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks. Reading about this trivia inspired me to read some of their works. Secondly, I loved the theme of Rootwork and how the author added her touch to the storyline. I loved reading about different cultures and practices, and the concept of Rootwork was fascinating. Similarly, I also enjoyed the characters and the storylines. Jez and Jay have an excellent sibling relationship, and I thought the author wrote their arguments and bond realistically. The entire family shares a beautiful bond, rich with history and culture. Even Collins made a scary villain and gave me goosebumps when he appeared. On a side note, I loved Doc’s wise dialogues that he imparts on the twins. Honestly, this is one of those books that I could not put down. However, probably my only criticism of the story was that it was too short. I loved reading this tale a lot, but I wish it had been longer. For instance, I loved Susie and Jez’s friendship, but I felt that we didn’t have many scenes with them together for me to consider them as best friends. It felt like the author tried to fit a LOT of content into this middle-grade gem, and I wished it had been 50-100 pages longer for more details. Apart from that, “Root Magic” is a beautiful middle-grade novel, with a touch of historical moments and a spice of magic, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mia Pia (mia.pia.reads IG)

    I really enjoyed this book. It was so so magical. Literally. I loved the Root Magic being taught and practiced. It felt so much more truthful than other magic based kids books.. I also loved how the author added in history and important topics throughout the book. It felt more meaningful and honest. The representation and diversity was powerful to me. We need more of this! I think any child who is interested in magic would love this read. I’m glad I was able to read it. Thank you NetGalley for al I really enjoyed this book. It was so so magical. Literally. I loved the Root Magic being taught and practiced. It felt so much more truthful than other magic based kids books.. I also loved how the author added in history and important topics throughout the book. It felt more meaningful and honest. The representation and diversity was powerful to me. We need more of this! I think any child who is interested in magic would love this read. I’m glad I was able to read it. Thank you NetGalley for allowing me to read this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ms. Yingling

    E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus Twins Jezebel and Jay are twins living in South Carolina in the early 1960s. Their grandmother has just passed away, and they are being raised by their mother, since their father left the family when they were younger. Their Uncle Doc lives very close, and offers to teach them root magic, so that they can help protect the family since their grandmother is gone. Jez is a bit apprehensive about it at first, although she was interested in learning magic. She and her E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus Twins Jezebel and Jay are twins living in South Carolina in the early 1960s. Their grandmother has just passed away, and they are being raised by their mother, since their father left the family when they were younger. Their Uncle Doc lives very close, and offers to teach them root magic, so that they can help protect the family since their grandmother is gone. Jez is a bit apprehensive about it at first, although she was interested in learning magic. She and her brother start by doing what seem like mundane chores, painting the house haint blue and helping out their uncle. When they are playing in the creek and Jez hears a voice and feels like something has grabbed her legs and won't let her move, she reevaluates the possibility of magic when a paint stick with the haint blue paint seems to free her. There are other things, like her cloth doll her grandmother made who starts to talk to her, that make her feel that the magic is real. There are other issues in her life; the local police have a new leader who seems to be more sympathetic than the old one, but in the past, the police often threatened Jez's family, searching their property without warning and generally making them feel unsafe. The kids at school make fun of Jez, although she does make one new friend. Strengths: Jez is an appealing character who is missing her grandmother but trying to make her own way in the world. She is intrigued by the magic even if she doesn't quite trust it. The details about racial problems in the South during this time period are mentioned, and are quite serious, but it was good that they weren't the entire focus of the book. While I don't believe in any kind of magic at all, some families have strong ties to this, and I even saw the graveyard dirt with brick dust for sale of several web sites! The fact that the magic was used in this book for the protection of the family was intriguing. There were some nice twists in this that I don't want to ruin. Weaknesses: This was a bit slower paced, and I would have liked more details about the 1960s. Also, I think that another title for this, mentioned on Goodreads, Tying the Devil's Shoestrings, would have been a great title. What I really think: This will be a big hit with fans of Baptiste's The Jumbies, Smith's Hoodoo, and Van Otterloo's Cattywampus with its depiction of family magic as something that is real and helpful to communities that struggle.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cassie Thomas

    I finally finished (so hard to read consistently with two toddlers). I’m hosting a book blog tour on Teachers Who Read for Root Magic on January 13, soooo I don’t want to give much away about my thoughts and how to utilize in your classroom until this blog post is published, but I do want you to know I 100% recommend as a fantasy unit read aloud. The story incorporates historical fiction elements as well as Gullah folklore. Can’t wait to share more.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    What do you get when you add family, magic, historical fiction and horror in together? This book. I knew with how it opened that this book was going to be something special and I was not disappointed.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

    I listened to the audiobook thanks to libro.fm. I love the narrator-Imani Parks. Her voice is so calm, soft, and matches the characters so well. I really enjoyed the mix of magic and history in this book. Such a powerful way to tell the story of 1960s South Carolina and the Gullah culture. I recommend!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Amy Nicole

    I read about 45% of this book, but I am stopping there. I loved the Gullah representation; I grew up watching Gullah Gullah island. I thought this would be a fun fantasy book that incorporated some cultural elements. However, the presentation of 'root work' and conjuring is a bit too "real" for my tastes. I got to the scene where the bat's blood was being collected, and it seems like too much for kids to be exposed to animal sacrifice and blood letting. That crosses a line for me whether I'm bei I read about 45% of this book, but I am stopping there. I loved the Gullah representation; I grew up watching Gullah Gullah island. I thought this would be a fun fantasy book that incorporated some cultural elements. However, the presentation of 'root work' and conjuring is a bit too "real" for my tastes. I got to the scene where the bat's blood was being collected, and it seems like too much for kids to be exposed to animal sacrifice and blood letting. That crosses a line for me whether I'm being too sensitive or not. Before that scene, the story was heartwarming about a family who is banding together after their matriarch grandmother's passing. In honor of their grandmother's memory, the two children begin learning "root magic" and conjuring from their uncle. There were great life lessons about grief and family. I just really couldn't get over the strong occult/witchcraft themes. I do not want to ruin such a new book's ratings, so I am simply leaving this one unrated.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ceallaigh

    “All of that is what makes us Gullah Geechee people who we are. If no one tells the stories anymore, if no one learns the magic anymore, our ways will disappear from the world. Then all we’ll have is what the people think of us.” He bent his head to look both me and Jay in the eyes. “And how important is what other people think of us?” I don’t read a lot of Middle Grade novels but I couldn’t resist reading this one for its Gullah Geechee rep and exploration of the root magic tradition. This was s “All of that is what makes us Gullah Geechee people who we are. If no one tells the stories anymore, if no one learns the magic anymore, our ways will disappear from the world. Then all we’ll have is what the people think of us.” He bent his head to look both me and Jay in the eyes. “And how important is what other people think of us?” I don’t read a lot of Middle Grade novels but I couldn’t resist reading this one for its Gullah Geechee rep and exploration of the root magic tradition. This was such a precious, warm story full of a nuanced exploration of the difficulties of childhood, especially in regards to the effects of systemic racism and a lack of appreciation for the “old ways”. The values expressed through this book were those of community, family, loyalty, and a pride in ones self and ones traditions in the face of outside pressure to forget such things or dismiss them as unmodern and therefore unimportant or even ignorant. The themes of bullying, police brutality, and racism were treated with great intention and yet also with such subtlety that I think Royce really captured the way children experience such issues and why approaching these conversations openly and honestly with children at a young age will help them build the tools and strength needed to be able to thrive in spite of these outside forces throughout their lives. “History, Thomas, is the story of who we are. And sometimes, Negro history is told by people who don’t think we’re important. People who don’t think we make a difference in the world.” She gazed around the class then, like she was making a point to look at each one of us. “But we do matter. What we think matters. Our voices matter. And our stories matter too much to let someone else tell them. People need to know that.” The character development was also very strong and I thought the adult characters in particular were a lot more complex and felt a lot more like real people than I usually find them to be represented in MG books. There were some pretty scary parts, one of a supernatural nature, another of a police brutality nature, and the bullying episodes were pretty intense, but they were all perfectly handled and important to the story overall. The philosophy of this book was also incredibly excellent. The profound respect and appreciation that Gullah Geechee traditions have for the natural world was very apparent in this book but I also loved how both Doc and Jezebel had their own views and values and were able to interpret and change their sacred practices according to their own personal codes. (Jezebel’s point blank refusal to harm any animals gor any reason in her magic was 😚👌🏻. And I loved that she even considered that “but we eat animals” and she acknowledges that that’s ok but for her and her magic, she wants to find another way. 🥰❤️🥰❤️🥰 I was also particularly in love with the choices made surrounding the character of Susie—I can’t say more about it without giving some major spoilers—but her involvement with Jez’s life was my favorite part of the story. And the foodddd. All I wanted to eat for a week after finishing this book was different rice dishes. 😋😋 Might need to track down a Gullah Geechee cookbook soon… 🥰 ”I walked up to the marsh, a place that had held such fascination and fun and fear for me, and placed my feet at the edge of the water. Here was where I had almost lost everything, even my life, but it was also the place where I found that I was connected to the people who loved me. And it didn’t matter that some of them might be gone for now. I was here, and I would remember them, always.” TW // bullying, police brutality, racism, scary images, grief, death of a parent

  14. 5 out of 5

    Stormi (BMReviewsohmy)

    Root Magic is set in the 60's in South Carolina and follows a couple black kids whose grandmother dies and she was one of the major root workers in her family alongside Doc, their uncle. Doc knows that their grandmother would have wanted them to learn root work and so he gets permission from their mother to teach them. Jez and Jay soon find out that root work isn't just all about potions and herbs. It can be hard work like painting their house haint blue for protection. Along with learning about Root Magic is set in the 60's in South Carolina and follows a couple black kids whose grandmother dies and she was one of the major root workers in her family alongside Doc, their uncle. Doc knows that their grandmother would have wanted them to learn root work and so he gets permission from their mother to teach them. Jez and Jay soon find out that root work isn't just all about potions and herbs. It can be hard work like painting their house haint blue for protection. Along with learning about their heritage it is the 60's so they are having to deal with a nasty deputy who has it out for root workers and just loves to cause them trouble. Also schools are being integrated and there are new students at school. Just like with about any situation it always seems like the boys have it easier than girls. Nobody makes fun of Jay for coming from of root workers but Jez is having a hard time. There is a new girl at school who makes her life miserable and Jez has no friends. Jez soon learns that there is more to their magic and how much more complex it really is when something happens to her in the marsh. She learns that there are not just people who are nasty but there are some spirits out there who are around to give her trouble too. She quickly learns her magic which will come in handy later on when having to deal with a lot of things later in the book. So I really enjoyed the characters. I liked Jez and Jay and felt bad for Jez and could understand her loneliness because she was different. She learns that it's not just other colors that find her different that even some of those with her own skin color don't like those who do root. She learns how important it is to embrace her heritage even if it means being made fun of and being alone. I do have a few issues with it and that was that sometimes it was just a bit slow. I was interested in the beginning then it lagged and then the last part was pretty cool. I almost didn't think it was going to wrap up and be a series but it had a decent though quick wrap up at the end.  I wasn't a huge fan of blood letting being in a kids book. Part of their root work is animal sacrifice though the author was good to have the uncle just take blood from the bat and not kill it, I still wasn't a fan of it. There was another thing I wasn't a huge fan of but I feel it would be a spoiler so can't really mention it. Overall, I think it was an interesting story and the author used her own ancestral history which is cool.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lorie Barber

    I received an eARC of Root Magic and I am so grateful that I did! Set in South Carolina in the early 60s, Jezebel’s story is part historical fiction, part ghost story, part African folklore. It’s also a deep dive into a culture I knew very little about: the Gullah Geechee people, who live, work, and create among sea islands along the southeast coast. So, sounds like a lot for a middle grade book, right? Sure. But the author weaves the setting and background into the (very exciting) plot of the sto I received an eARC of Root Magic and I am so grateful that I did! Set in South Carolina in the early 60s, Jezebel’s story is part historical fiction, part ghost story, part African folklore. It’s also a deep dive into a culture I knew very little about: the Gullah Geechee people, who live, work, and create among sea islands along the southeast coast. So, sounds like a lot for a middle grade book, right? Sure. But the author weaves the setting and background into the (very exciting) plot of the story that I didn’t realize how much history I was absorbing until the book was over and I was Googling like crazy, wanting to know more about root workers and this beautiful community of healers. The setting also informed the characters’ reaction to the violent racism of the time. Many parallels can be made to the abuse of power of Officer Collins and some officers today. I also found myself frustrated at the impotence of the sheriff, who wanted to help and offered words of support, but was unsure of what to DO. Finally, the push and pull of the twin relationship was one that struck a chord. Jay and Jez are at that age where they’re growing apart, physically and emotionally. But their bond is true and I felt that part strongly as a twin. Root Magic is a wonderful book, a window (Bishop) into a world and culture so unlike my own, and I will share it with students to broaden their perspectives as well. But I’ll also share it because it’s a GREAT read!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ava Budavari

    Root Magic was an unbelievably beautiful book by an author I can’t wait to read more of. An #ownvoices middle grade historical fantasy following a family of root workers and members of the Gullah Gechee nation, I learned so much about a piece of black history and culture that has been erased from our history books. Jezebel Turner is an inspiring, sweet and determined protagonist who is just pure magic. I think regardless of your age, this book has really important lessons to teach all of us. It Root Magic was an unbelievably beautiful book by an author I can’t wait to read more of. An #ownvoices middle grade historical fantasy following a family of root workers and members of the Gullah Gechee nation, I learned so much about a piece of black history and culture that has been erased from our history books. Jezebel Turner is an inspiring, sweet and determined protagonist who is just pure magic. I think regardless of your age, this book has really important lessons to teach all of us. It is a story that not only shows what black people went through in the past but also what they are going through in the present. I really, really loved this and can’t wait for you all to get it when it comes out tomorrow!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Roriann Crouch

    5/5 “Things will always change. People grow up, move away, or even pass on, but I now knew it didn’t mean they’d left me alone.” I loved Root Magic! Set in the 1960s And so full of history and i am so glad i gained knowledge of the Gullah culture. It was unlike any book I’ve read before, i love spooks it gave me. I fell so in love with the whole turner family and cared about everything they went through. Jez and Jay are such strong and powerful 11 year olds with everything they face in this book. 5/5 “Things will always change. People grow up, move away, or even pass on, but I now knew it didn’t mean they’d left me alone.” I loved Root Magic! Set in the 1960s And so full of history and i am so glad i gained knowledge of the Gullah culture. It was unlike any book I’ve read before, i love spooks it gave me. I fell so in love with the whole turner family and cared about everything they went through. Jez and Jay are such strong and powerful 11 year olds with everything they face in this book. I am saddened to see the way the family was treated by officer collins but i do think justice was well served. This may have been geared towards a younger audience but i loved every bit of it anyway.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I couldn't help but feel a little bit the way I felt when I first read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry when I was in the middle grades. This is a slow burn, but it encompasses so many complex, difficult topics with nuance, compassion, and importantly in a children's book, hope. I couldn't help but feel a little bit the way I felt when I first read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry when I was in the middle grades. This is a slow burn, but it encompasses so many complex, difficult topics with nuance, compassion, and importantly in a children's book, hope.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Porshea

    It isn’t every day that you see Gullah culture explored through the eyes of middle schoolers — unless you were a 90s kid who enjoyed the fantastic Black programming that was Nickelodeon’s Gullah Gullah Island, of course. While Eden Royce’s debut middle grade story also follows the travails of a Black family from the island, the similarities end there. Root Magic is a story about eleven year old twins Jezebel and Jay Turner set in 1963 wherein they deal with the recent death of their grandmother, It isn’t every day that you see Gullah culture explored through the eyes of middle schoolers — unless you were a 90s kid who enjoyed the fantastic Black programming that was Nickelodeon’s Gullah Gullah Island, of course. While Eden Royce’s debut middle grade story also follows the travails of a Black family from the island, the similarities end there. Root Magic is a story about eleven year old twins Jezebel and Jay Turner set in 1963 wherein they deal with the recent death of their grandmother, what that means for their rootwork education, and coming of age. Because the opening scene occurs at the funeral for the twins’ grandmother, we are thrust directly into the feelings Jezebel wrestles with in losing her best friend. Despite having her twin brother, she has always felt isolated, particularly at school where no one will hang out with her. As Jezebel goes through the motions of her grief, she realizes more and more how much her grandmother’s presence meant to her. This specific school year brings Jezebel increased anxiety as she is moving up a grade ahead of her brother, so when she faces bullying by the older, more financially secure girls at their segregated school, she learns there are some obstacles people aren’t meant to face alone. Her desperation following this realization combined with the rootwork lessons that her uncle, Doc, has begun to teach her and her brother leads her to create her first spell, one to conjure her first true friend. Just when it seems like the spell is working — she’s found a true friend in another solitary girl in her grade, Susie — she learns that there may be more to the girl than meets the eye. On top of her friendship woes, her family is continually harassed by a police deputy who has led raids on rootworker families in their area for years and is rumored to have led to many of their disappearances. While Doc’s teachings help the twins to become better connected to their ancestors and their abilities to protect their family with different root work, these teachings do not seem to rid them of their troubles. Instead, it makes the Turners targets of the police and Black families who look down on their ‘backwardness.’ Read more: https://blackgirlscreate.org/2021/01/...

  20. 4 out of 5

    BigLittleBookz

    “All of that is what makes us Gullah Geechee people who we are. If no one tells the stories anymore, if no one learns the magic anymore, our ways will disappear from the world.”

  21. 5 out of 5

    Brantay Q.

    Loved it! I especially love how it incorporates the Gullah Geechee culture.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Cecillia

    A great middle school age book that provides a story set in Gullah culture that does an important job of making the not-too-distant past come alive and not shying away from difficult subjects even though the protagonists are children.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Read

    Eden Royce is one of the best. This book is full of heart and history and magic. This is the perfect historical middle-grade fantasy for bringing history alive for young readers who also want to be immersed in story. I'll be recommending it to all my library teens. Eden Royce is one of the best. This book is full of heart and history and magic. This is the perfect historical middle-grade fantasy for bringing history alive for young readers who also want to be immersed in story. I'll be recommending it to all my library teens.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Katie Adams

    I enjoyed this. I don’t have much background knowledge of root magic or conjure magic, so it kept my attention. It was hard to set my mind in 1963, though - I kept feeling like I was further back in time.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Root magic by Eden Royce is an excellent middle grade creepy urban fantasy suitable for readers of all ages. It takes place in South Carolina in 1963, with all the turmoil integration is causing. Jezebel Turner and her twin brother Jay have just lost their beloved grandmother (she was quite elderly) and their family is being harassed by the racist good-ole-boy local police deputy. The progressive new sheriff is appalled at the deputy’s corruption and racist behavior, but he has to go thru slow o Root magic by Eden Royce is an excellent middle grade creepy urban fantasy suitable for readers of all ages. It takes place in South Carolina in 1963, with all the turmoil integration is causing. Jezebel Turner and her twin brother Jay have just lost their beloved grandmother (she was quite elderly) and their family is being harassed by the racist good-ole-boy local police deputy. The progressive new sheriff is appalled at the deputy’s corruption and racist behavior, but he has to go thru slow official channels to get things changed. Now eleven, Jaz and Jay are old enough to start learning root work from their Uncle, Doc. Root work is African American folk medicine, herbalism and magic. Their Gullah family has done root work for generations. As they start to learn basic protective spells, and help make tinctures and herbalized oils, they encounter supernatural creatures. Some are malign and some are benign. So there are some scary bits. Jaz and her family actually have to face prejudices they have towards wild and supernatural creatures and end up with important allies. Their single mom is conflicted about them learning root work and is very firm about the importance of school. She’s less than sympathetic when Jaz wants to quite because of serious mean-girl issues. A new girl with a posse taunts Jaz about being a “witch-girl,” while Jay’s classmates think root work is cool. Over the course of the book, Jaz and Jay learn to navigate a new sibling relationship, they each learn to appreciate their different strengths and Jaz learns to be proud of her heritage in public as well as at home. They also face some scary things with ingenuity and courage. This book became an instant favorite, and is up there with Monica Furlong’s Wise Child as a novel that presents magic and spellcraft in a way that feels realistic and respectful, in a non-flashy, non-Hollywood way. The book is a great introduction to the Gullah culture; African Americans in the low country regions of South Carolina and Georgia with strong cultural ties to Central and Western Africa and their own regional languages. There is a terrifying showdown with the deputy but everything works out in the end. CW: illness, death of loved ones, magic, a benign living doll, benign ghosts, scary supernatural creatures, astral projection, cross-species friendships, animal cruelty, mean girls, bullying, death of President (memorial service), racism, police brutality, murder (off page).

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jes Smith

    A girl who wants nothing more than a friend finds connection deeper than she had ever imagined. Royce shows us a part America that is often misunderstood in Root Magic. On the eve of twins Jezebel and Jay’s 11th birthday they are remembering the life of their grandmother and the stories and the secrets she took with her in death. Doc, their uncle, will begin teaching the twins the rootwork practices of their Gullah ancestors. Their mother doesn’t stop him, but would rather the twins focus on schoo A girl who wants nothing more than a friend finds connection deeper than she had ever imagined. Royce shows us a part America that is often misunderstood in Root Magic. On the eve of twins Jezebel and Jay’s 11th birthday they are remembering the life of their grandmother and the stories and the secrets she took with her in death. Doc, their uncle, will begin teaching the twins the rootwork practices of their Gullah ancestors. Their mother doesn’t stop him, but would rather the twins focus on schoolwork. Jezebel makes a new friend at school but she is secretive. Jezebel also discovers her understanding of rootwork is intuitive and she has more abilities than her brother does. We see Jezebel help spirits and animals no matter what the stories say. She shows us a brave soul, not only in a town that doesn’t accept her family, but also in 1960’s America with rampant and violent racism. This is at times a scary book. With haints, boo hags, and white racist and violent acts. It also is full of family love and support. The writing was good, I only wish the author had broken some of the events into different books, but it did highlight the talent and perseverance of Jezebel in the face of constant adversity. This book is a good fit for 4th, 5th and 6 th graders who like to be a little scared and also for readers who enjoy folklore and mythology. Fans of The Tristan Strong books by Kwame Mbalia and The Jumbies by Tracy Baptist will want to try this book out. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher Harper Collins Walden Pond Press for the ARC. I was not paid for my review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bee (BacchusVines)

    Trigger Warnings for Racism, Police Harassment, Police Brutality, Death by Police, Bullying, Death of a Love One, Body Horror Root Magic is an absolute wild ride full of ancestral magic, sibling love, and not trusting everything at face value. Jay and Jezebel are twins eager to learn rootwork from their uncle Doc. Even with the community stigma on those that practice it and their own mother's overprotectiveness, the twins learn their ways through spells, friendship, and learning to stand as their Trigger Warnings for Racism, Police Harassment, Police Brutality, Death by Police, Bullying, Death of a Love One, Body Horror Root Magic is an absolute wild ride full of ancestral magic, sibling love, and not trusting everything at face value. Jay and Jezebel are twins eager to learn rootwork from their uncle Doc. Even with the community stigma on those that practice it and their own mother's overprotectiveness, the twins learn their ways through spells, friendship, and learning to stand as their own person. I *love* the mythos that is shared about rootwork. Learning about mixing things that the family gets from the nature around them and the marsh, was really eye opening. I enjoyed reading the family dynamic between the twins, their mother, and their uncle. I cried as Jezebel is separated from her twin, placed in a grade above, and having to deal with the bullying from kids who parrot the things their parents say about rootwork. I like how Royce points out how skin-folk is not kin-folk when they turn away from rootwork and also come for the spells that root workers offer. I felt anger as the family was tormented by the sheriff and had to deal with his abuse at the end and, of course, finding out the horrible truth of what happened to their father. I cried as Jezebel struggle with dealing with her friend, betrayal, and also choosing to become a different kind of root worker from her uncle. There is much in this middle grade and I highly recommend reading Black reviewers, especially those that come form the Gullah community. I highly enjoyed this novel and cannot wait to see what else Eden Royce will bring in the future!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

    Root Magic is a story about learning how to deal with grief…with a lot of magic. Not long after Jezebel Turner and Jay Turner deal with their grandmother’s death, they get trained in rootwork, an African American folk magic that is part of their family’s history. While immersing themselves in this tradition they are facing the harsh realities of what it means to be African American in 1963. Infusing the magic of folklore with social commentary from the perspective of a child, this slowly became Root Magic is a story about learning how to deal with grief…with a lot of magic. Not long after Jezebel Turner and Jay Turner deal with their grandmother’s death, they get trained in rootwork, an African American folk magic that is part of their family’s history. While immersing themselves in this tradition they are facing the harsh realities of what it means to be African American in 1963. Infusing the magic of folklore with social commentary from the perspective of a child, this slowly became an irresistible horror story that is appropriate for children. I know that there is a lot of push for more diversity in reading these days. I find it important to represent a wide variety of voices in literature, which I applaud. This book brings up the importance of not only illuminating the realities of the African American experience and for the need for an oppressed group to explore their own rich cultural heritage. However it is also a very fun, enjoyable book to read—and I feel like sometimes in the push to read more diverse voices more playful perspectives can get neglected. The child’s perspective makes it a wonderful children’s book, but it is also one that an adult with more education and experience can enjoy. But then I often find that excelling in characterizing a child’s perspective, like Eden Royce does so masterfully makes for a story that is able to wed the combination of the wonder of learning more of the world with the terror of a first loss. I would definitely recommend this dark fantasy to all age groups! I also published this book on my blog: http://glamorousbookgal.blogspot.com/...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Brewster

    Captivating writing draws you into a immensely vivid and vibrant world, allowing you to feel connected to a time and a place that is not your own, and immersed in a rich Culture. Wrapped up in a fantastical magical story of childhood. One of the most gripping and satisfying books I’ve read. Root Magic is a brilliant story of the trials of two twins as they struggle to balance their family traditions with the ‘norm’ the rest of their school peers expect, set against the backdrop of racial injustic Captivating writing draws you into a immensely vivid and vibrant world, allowing you to feel connected to a time and a place that is not your own, and immersed in a rich Culture. Wrapped up in a fantastical magical story of childhood. One of the most gripping and satisfying books I’ve read. Root Magic is a brilliant story of the trials of two twins as they struggle to balance their family traditions with the ‘norm’ the rest of their school peers expect, set against the backdrop of racial injustice in 1960s Southern US. A magical fantasy tale of family, friendship and justice that has been brilliant crafted into a captivating novel that comes together perfectly. From a home education perspective, the book briefly mentions many historical events that can be expanded upon for learning opportunities (school integration, Martin Luther King jr and the assignation of president Kennedy), it however more prominently presents and inside look at the culture, foods, practices and language of the Gullah-Geechee people. Note of warning for some distressing scenes that might be a bit much for younger kiddos - as always I recommend pre reading, my little one is 6 and I feel she needs to be a couple of years older before she’s ready for this book, but one I’m definitely keeping in our home library.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kat

    *Thanks to NetGalley for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.* It's 1963, and everything is changing for Jezebel Turner. Her grandmother has just died, she's skipped to sixth grade and is about to be in a new school with all new kids, and she and her twin brother have been drifting apart lately. Not to mention, the local police officer who just won't stop harassing Jez and her family, because they do root magic - which, now that she is old enough, she and her twin brother get t *Thanks to NetGalley for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.* It's 1963, and everything is changing for Jezebel Turner. Her grandmother has just died, she's skipped to sixth grade and is about to be in a new school with all new kids, and she and her twin brother have been drifting apart lately. Not to mention, the local police officer who just won't stop harassing Jez and her family, because they do root magic - which, now that she is old enough, she and her twin brother get to start learning. Finally. Root magic is an African-American folk tradition, using the earth and natural materials to create a little bit of magic, the making of which had been forgotten by many families in the area. Jez's uncle Doc is the one who makes the majority of potions and powders for their community, and now she gets to help. Of course, being a "witch doctor" makes it even harder to make friends, especially when nothing is exactly what it looks like in Jez's world. MY NOTES: This was a great fantasy story with lovable, relatable characters. I didn't know much about the history of the area or about the Gullah language but I was drawn right in to learn about it, and root magic, right along with Jez.

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