Hoodoo, by Ronald L. Smith

I have allowed myself to be lax with the reviewing these past few weeks, but the iron is hot again (or something, probably the desire to move books from my home into the hands of library patrons).  So here's a review of a really distinctive horror book nominated for the Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction Cybils--Hoodoo, by Ronald L. Smith (Clarion Books, September 2015) .  I might well have read it anyway, because Ronald Smith came to Kidlitcon to be part of a panel on middle grade horror, which was lots of fun, and Hoodoo sounded most intriguing....African-American Southern Gothic horror for the young doesn't come my way all that often.

12-year-old Hoodoo Hatcher comes from a family with magic running strong in their blood.  Yet Hoodoo has yet to live up to his name.  Then a strange man comes to down, bringing horror with him...and Hoodoo is right in the cross-hairs of this stranger pruriently awful interest.  He has to learn to conjure with supernatural forces as quick as ever he can, or else.  And the reason why the stranger has come for him in particular is pretty dreadful in its own right, for one of Hoodoo's hands is not his own. It is the hand of a man hung for murder...

Fortunately Hoodoo, with the help of family and a loyal friend, a girl named Bunny, are able to persevere against the dark magic of the stranger, but not before some really scary happenings!

I wasn't sure I'd like Hoodoo, the boy, all that well--at the beginning of the book, he spends an awful lot of time telling the reader things; "if you didn't know," he says all too often.  But once the stranger's malevolence comes into full flower, it all gets nicely page-turny indeed!  Give this one to the young reader who enjoys supernatural scariness and is on the lookout for something a little different.  The setting, in Alabama in the 1930s, and the combination of hoodoo magic (rich and detailed) and Christian faith (strong and vibrant) pitted against an evil that's truly creepy, make a good change of pace, and the touches of humor in Hoodoo's narrative voice, and his eminently relatable struggle to figure out just what he's capable of make him a good comrade.  

I'm in agreement with Kirkus on this one--"The authenticity of Hoodoo's voice and this distinctive mashup of genres make Smith one to watch. Seekers of the scary and "something different" need look no further."
It's also a good one to read on a cold winter day up here in the north--the best sort of day for visiting hot, muggy southern swamp land. 

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher for Cybils Award Consideration

1 comment:

  1. Sounds good! Especially the inclusion of faith for the characters -- I feel like I so rarely read books where the characters have a religion that matters to them. (Surprising but true!)


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