Why You'll Like It: Southern Gothic. Spirited Hero. Family. Magic. Debut Author.
I felt I was partially reading some of my father's childhood. He was raised by his grandparents while his parents went North to find jobs. When your parents come from the Deep South, they have stories about the trouble they get into growing up (and the trouble they caused). For example, My father told me the story of a visit he had at my great-aunt's house as a child. My grandfather decided to visit his sister and took my father with him.
My father was playing outside when he stumbled upon water on the porch. He took one swig and spit it out. He emptied out the bowl and decided to get fresh water. When my great-aunt found out what he did, he had thrown out her moonshine---well, she gave him a memory he would never forget. My father said he received the greatest cursing out of his life by my great aunt. I had no idea as a child what he was talking about and still laughed. Now as an adult, I laugh even harder. It's so nice to have mirrors of these experiences in literature.
While Hoodoo did not throw out moonshine, he did make a comment about it which made me grin and laugh as I reminisced about my parent's southern roots. I love Hoodoo's narration about oddities of Southern living. The fact of him not not understanding adult ways of life was such a great read. It made it true to the story of how many elements (like your family) you cannot control.
The fact that Hoodoo and I use to get punished in similar fashion---LAWD SWITCHES. #jesustakethewheel. My dad said he could not be in the room when my mom made us go out and get a tree branch. He thought it was complete torture and don't let her see you come back with a small switch. That made me so happy. Not about corporeal punishment, but seeing it in literature so I could tell a future child, "Read this if you want to understand your mother's past." In addition to Southern living, I thought it was nice to see a book finally explaining what Hoodoo is versus Voodoo. Hoodoo has similarities to Voodoo, but the main difference is Voodoo is a religion and Hoodoo is not. Hoodoo's rituals are frankly fascinating because they seem to blend American Indian practices, European Christianity, and West African roots.
Hoodoo was a fabulous middle grade read. I could not wait to read it after I found out it won this year's Coretta Scott King Award. It was a fast-paced read and I was instantly connected to the characters and hooked to the plot. I feel that I am seeing a trend of creepy books and I'm definitely loving it. I'm looking forward to reading more of Ronald L. Smith's work!