Monday, December 28, 2020

MMGM- Root Magic and Legacy

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Royce, Eden. Root Magic
January 5th 2021 by Walden Pond Press
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. 

Because one of Jez's teacher reads a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks, this is a great pairing.

Grimes, Niki. Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance
January 5th 2021 by Bloomsbury Children's Books
E ARC provided by Netgalley

I'm super picky about poetry; really, the only modern poet I really like is Timothy Steele, who uses formulaic verse brilliantly. Naomi Shahib Nye is another one whose work I like (Amaze Me was fantastic), and I'm going to have to add Grimes' Legacy to this list.

This is an interesting concept in poetry. Not only does Grimes collect poems from women writers who flourished during the Harlem Renaissance, she then takes the poems and writes her own in the "Golden Shovel" format created by Terrance Hayes (  Since one of my favorite older poets is Edna St. Vincent Millay, it's interesting to see work by poets such as Alice Dunbar-Nelson and Angelina Weld Grimké who would have been her contemporaries. Definitely looking forward to having this for our yearly 7th grade language arts poetry project. (And yes, this is the book that I didn't buy in my first order of the year-- there's always at least one book that makes me wish I had waited a day or two to put in an order!)


  1. Root Magic sounds like an excellent book—magical realism is a genre that interests me but that I really don't read enough of. Legacy sounds great as well—it's neat that it showcases poems from poets of the time as well as poems by Grimes that build off of them. (Sorry you didn't get it onto your first book order!) Thanks for the great post, and have a great new year!

  2. Wow, I especially want to add Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance to my list after hearing how picky you are about poetry. That says load about Grimes' work. My mentor in library school was Sylvia Vardell and she's the first one who turned me on to poetry in KidLit. I need to do a better job of filling my home with it! Also, I've really dropped the ball in my social media presence this fall (particularly on Twitter) but it's so touching to get a notification when a fellow blogger has shared one of my posts. I know it takes time and effort, but I wanted to thank you for the encouragement. Have a wonderful New Year, Karen!

  3. Seems like every recent MG book I've read has a single parent character along with a bully. The time period and setting of this one are enough to put it on my future read list. Thanks for featuring on our final MMGM of 2020. I'm looking forward to a brighter 2021 and more of your fantastic reviews.

  4. Legacy does sound like a powerful addition to a poetry collection.

  5. Thanks for the introduction to both of these books. I've added them to my list.

  6. I'm very curious about Legacy. I may have to see if we have an ARC.