JUMP AT THE SUN
The True Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston
Written by Alicia D. Williams
Illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara
Atheneum BYR—January 2021
48 Pages Age 4—8
Genre: Children’s Picture Book, Nonfiction
Themes: Biography, Novelist & Folklorist
Inside Jacket Flap
“ZORA was a girl who hankered for tales like bees for honey. Now, her mama always told her that if she wanted something, to “jump at de sun,” because even though Zora might not land quite that high, at least she’d get off the ground. And Zora jumped . . .
“. . . to Joe Clark’s general store to listen to tales of Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox; to Howard University, where she decided she’d be a famous writer; to Harlem in New York City to make that dream come true.
“And everywhere she landed, Zora shone sunlight on the tales most folks hadn’t even bothered to listen to . . . until Zora.” (from jacket flap)
“IN A TOWN CALLED EATONVILLE—a place where magnolias smelled even prettier than they looked, oranges were as sweet as they were plump, and the people just plain ol’ got along—lived a girl who was attracted to tales like mosquitoes to skin.”
Why I like Jump at the Sun
Jump at the Sun is the biography of African-American novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist Nora Neale Hurston (1891—1960). It’s subtitled, The True Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston, for good reasons; Hurston not only wrote her own stories, she also “caught” the stories and folktales that were orally passed from one generation to the next. As you read her remarkable story, you will understand how “unstoppable” this woman was in most aspects of her life. Beginning as a young girl interested in stories townsfolk told at Joe Clark’s general store, and into a young adult wanting the education needed to become the famous writer she yearned to become.
Aspiring writers of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds can see Hurston’s success as a road they may also travel. They will find much inspiration in Hurston’s life, especially as she was unwillingly pushed out on her own, at age fourteen. Hurston studied when she could, wrote when she had the time, invested in her future, and did what she had to do to survive—even though holding onto a job was not one of her vast skills. Yet when an opportunity presented itself, Hurston made the most of it, from her studies at Howard University and Barnyard College, to her move to New York City.
Ms. Hurston’s work includes many writings and collections, including “cultural songs, dances, tales, religious practices, children’s games, folklores.” Zora collected the tales and folklores she heard at Joe Clark’s general store, which she sold. Titled The Eatonville Anthology, it helped pay the costs of Zora’s education at Barnyard College. She also collected folktales, at a professor’s urging, to complete her anthropology fieldwork. Mrs. Hurston collected folklores in Haiti, the Bahamas, and in southern Florida, including her childhood home in Eatonville. When, as a young girl, Nora was not collecting folk stories, she was writing her own stories—after first creating characters fashioned out of scraps (Reverend Door-Knob, Miss Corn Shuck and Miss Corn-Cob).
Young readers will enjoy her crazy characters and the beautiful, detailed, respectful, and often comical illustrations artist Jacqueline Alcántara created to tell Ms. Hurston’s story. This incredible folklorist might even inspire children to create their own characters and then the stories to match each one. Advanced readers will be able to read this biographical picture book on their own. Younger kids will find some of the words author Alicia D. Williams used out of the range of the typical picture book reader:
anthropology, varmints, sobbing-hearted, mourn, boarding school, tightfisted, commenced, tarrying, plunked, pallet, pondering, literary, lectures, the Charleston, chanting, bootlegger, and hold court.
and a few southern accented words such as:
“de” (the), “dese” (these),“lemme” (let me), “s’posed” (supposed),“y’all” (you all), “’bout” (about), “tah” (a), and “steada” (instead of).
The many side bubbles give a hint to Ms. Hurston’s folktales and stories, including the accent.
“You know, God did not make folks all at once. He made folks sort of in His spare time . . . . For instance, one day He called everybody and gave out feet and eyes. Another time He give out toe-nails. . . .”
“Y’all been tellin’ and lyin’ ‘bout dese varmints but you ain’t yet spoke about de high chief boss of all de world which is de lion. . . . “
“Dat’s de reason de dog is mad wid de rabbit now—‘cause he fooled de dog. . . .”
Ms. Williams uses many similes while writing Ms. Hurston’s story. She starts by writing, “. . . –lived a girl who was attracted to tales like mosquitoes to skin.” (emphasis mine) This first page helps set the mood for the story, letting readers know this will be a fun, informative biography about an amazing woman.
By the time children and adults finish this picture book—adults should most definitely read Jump at the Sun—they will understand Ms. Zora Neale Hurston is, as Ms. Williams writes, “She is a national treasure.”
An Author’s Note—Alicia D. Williams tells the story of first meeting author Zora Neale Hurston, who had a fondness for giggling. Ms. Hurston’s anthology is titled, I Love Myself When I Am Laughing . . . And Then Again When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive.
Ms. Hurston lived out many adventures while bravely driving the backroads of the southern states in her Ford coupe (during the time of Jim Crow laws). I doubt she was truly mean, but Ms. Hurston was most definitely impressive. Read all the gems about this fascinating novelist, folklorist, anthropologist, adventurer, and much more in the Author’s Note.
The back matter also includes a list of Additional Reading; all books by Ms. Hurston (two for children and seven for adults). The Sources used while writing, Jump at the Sun: The True Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston is also listed.
Illustrations Rendered in markers, gouache, and Photoshop.
Available at Amazon: JUMP AT THE SUN: The True Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston
JUMP AT THE SUN: The True Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston. Text Copyright © 2021 by Alicia D. Williams. Illustrations copyright © 2021 by Jacqueline Alcántara. Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division; “A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book,” New York, NY.
Copyright © 2021 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
[653—word count-review only]
[I am an Amazon affiliate. When you purchase through a link on KLR, you are supporting Kid Lit Reviews. For each sale, KLR makes a small commission, which costs you nothing extra. This is an easy way to show your support for this site, without using your own money. For each commission received, I gratefully thank you.]
** Hey Readers! Kid Lit Reviews has a new, easier, no hyphens domain name, beginning January 2021. KidsLitReview.com