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Cover image for Zora and me : the cursed ground
Zora and me : the cursed ground
1st ed.
Physical Description:
250 pages ; 20 cm.
Reading Level:
840 L Lexile
When Zora Neale Hurston and her best friend, Carrie Brown, discover that the town mute can speak after all, they think they've uncovered a big secret. But Mr. Polk's silence is just one piece of a larger puzzle that stretches back half a century to the tragic story of an enslaved girl named Lucia. As Zora's curiosity leads a reluctant Carrie deeper into the mystery, the story unfolds through alternating narratives. Lucia's struggle for freedom resonates through the years, threatening the future of America's first incorporated black township -- the hometown of author Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960). In a riveting coming-of-age tale, award-winning author T. R. Simon champions the strength of a people to stand up for justice.


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A powerful fictionalized account of Zora Neale Hurston's childhood adventures explores the idea of collective memory and the lingering effects of slavery."History ain't in a book, especially when it comes to folks like us. History is in the lives we lived and the stories we tell each other about those lives."When Zora Neale Hurston and her best friend, Carrie Brown, discover that the town mute can speak after all, they think they've uncovered a big secret. But Mr. Polk's silence is just one piece of a larger puzzle that stretches back half a century to the tragic story of an enslaved girl named Lucia. As Zora's curiosity leads a reluctant Carrie deeper into the mystery, the story unfolds through alternating narratives. Lucia's struggle for freedom resonates through the years, threatening the future of America's first incorporated black township - the hometown of author Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960). In a riveting coming-of-age tale, award-winning author T. R. Simon champions the strength of a people to stand up for justice.

Author Notes

T. R. Simon is the co-author, with Victoria Bond, of the 2011 John Steptoe New Talent Author Award winner Zora and Me. She is also the co-author, with Richard Simon, of Oskar and the Eight Blessings, illustrated by Mark Siegel and winner of the National Jewish Book Award for Children's Literature. T. R. Simon lives in Westchester County, New York.

Reviews 6

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this compelling sequel to Zora and Me (both stories fictionalize the childhood of literary great Zora Neale Hurston), two best friends unearth a town's secret. In their covert late night wandering, Zora and 12-year-old narrator Carrie discover that their mute friend Mr. Polk speaks, and, in the process, they extract a promise for a story from purported witch Old Lady Bronson. Set in Florida and told in alternating chapters that switch settings between Carrie and Zora's 1903 African-American town of Eatonville and an 1855 plantation community in the same location, then called Westin, the parallel tale reveals the plight of Lucia, 11, a black orphan who sails from Europe with her friend Prisca and guardian Don Frederico into brutal enslavement. Lucia's story exerts the stronger pull in much of the novel, until the two worlds collide powerfully to highlight the "unfinished business of slavery" and reveal why the town is cursed ground. The result is a thought-provoking look at racially motivated violence and the enduring wounds of slavery. An included biography offers insight into Hurston's life and later work. Ages 10-14. Agent: Victoria Sanders, Victoria Sanders & Assoc. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

This second novel featuring a young Zora Neale Hurston and her friend Carrie Brown is once again set in the girls hometown of Eatonville, Florida, in 1903, less than forty years after the end of the Civil War. A year has passed since the events of Zora and Me, with bold, curious, story-loving Zora still as leader and narrator Carrie as follower (albeit an appreciative one; Zora made life in a town no bigger than a teacup feel like it held the whole world). As the twelve-year-olds are pulled deeper into a mystery involving their tight-knit African American community, the narrative begins to alternate with that of Lucia, a girl enslaved on a Florida plantation in 1855. When the stories begin to mergethe tone shifting from suspenseful to eerie to tragic to downright terrifyingthe friends are brought up against some hard truths concerning race and power, hate and love, slavery and freedom. The climactic scenewith a posse of armed white men set on taking by force the cursed ground of the books subtitle and killing the lands owneris heart-stopping; that it ends happily with the villain vanquished, given the realities of Jim Crow America, is not a foregone conclusion. Simon keeps the plot moving briskly and sustains suspense even as she folds in truly profound, timely, and important themes; and one of the things Zora and Carrie have learned by books end is that history wasnt something you read in a book. It was everything your life stood on. martha v. Parravano (c) Copyright 2018. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

In 1903, 12-year-old Carrie and her best friend Zora Neale Hurston investigate missing horses and uncover many secrets about their African American town, including that the town mute can actually speak. In an alternative narrative set in 1855, an enslaved woman named Lucia recounts the story of her white half sister's murder by the plantation owner's son. Set in Eatonville, Florida, and on the plantation that preceded it, the stories (and some characters) eventually converge in an absorbing novel that reinforces the horrors of slavery and the importance of standing up for justice. A sequel to Zora & Me (2010), which Simon coauthored with Victoria Bond, this story pays tribute to writer and anthropologist Hurston and weaves the basics of her life (she grew up in Eatonville, set many of her stories there, and, as an anthropologist, studied hoodoo practices in the Caribbean and American South) into a plausible fiction. Although the plot depends heavily on Carrie and Zora eavesdropping on the adults around them, this makes a satisfying read for historical fiction buffs.--Kay Weisman Copyright 2018 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

FOR PARENTS who struggle to keep their kids in books, sequels are a blessing. If kids like the first book, it's almost a guarantee they will like the next, and the next, and so on. Many an author who has delighted children once can successfully spin out characters and plots into new iterations, even if they never anticipated creating a series. Surprisingly to us jaded adults, the quality of these sequels doesn't necessarily drop off a cliff. These four new books for middlegrade readers all reprise characters and settings from previous favorites. JENNIFER L. HOLM, who traverses many genres from graphic novels to historical fiction and has been awarded three Newbery Honors, has followed up her 2014 best seller "The Fourteenth Goldfish" with the THIRD MUSHROOM (Random House, 217 pp., $16.99; ages 8 to 12). In the first book, the middle schooler Elbe Cruz is living an unexceptional life when her mom is summoned by the police and returns home with a 13-year-old boy who is actually Elbe's grandfather, Melvin Sagarsky, a retired scientist made young again through the cellular regeneration properties of a rare jellyfish. Forced to attend middle school with Elbe, Melvin enlists her and her friend Raj in a plot to patent the reverse-aging process. "The Fourteenth Goldfish" was an appealing mix of true-tolife and plain bizarre - and now, one year later, "The Third Mushroom" finds Elbe in seventh grade and needing a partner in the county science fair. Naturally, she teams up with Melvin - who may be her grandfather but is now hitting puberty, so he eats a ton, sleeps late and needs braces. The premise is barely explained in the sequel, so it helps to have read "The Fourteenth Goldfish," but Melvin's transformation is just as amusing. Elbe and Melvin's project on fruit flies goes awry when Melvin starts experimenting on himself. Their discovery winds up reversing the anti-aging process. They don't win the prize, but Elbe gets her real grandfather back. "He seems lighter," she observes. As for Melvin, he says with a shrug: "To be honest, I wasn't looking forward to having to take the SATs again." Holm's still-witty sequel adds a touching element of loss in the back story of the death of Elbe's grandmother, whom Melvin's scientific genius could not save. TIM FEDERLE, who co-wrote the musical "Ttick Everlasting" and the movie "Ferdinand," knows the territory of being a misunderstood theater kid. As a teenager, he escaped his hometown to come to New York City to pursue a Broadway career. His novel "Better Nate Than Ever" told the story of Nate Foster, an eighth grader who steals his mom's A.T.M. card and his brother's fake ID and boards a bus to try out for a Broadway musical version of "E.T." Next came "Five, Six, Seven, Nate!," in which Nate lands an ensemble role, moves to New York and prepares for opening night. Now the series comes to an end with nate EXPECTATIONS (Simon & Schuster, 256 pp., $17.99; ages io to 14), which tackles what happens after your dream comes true: The show closes after bad reviews. As with his earlier books, Federle skillfully pivots between the comedic commentary and the moving introspection of a boy trying to find his place in a homophobic world. After experiencing the freedom to be himself - as web as a secret romance with a castmate - Nate Foster has to go back to Jankburg, Pa., "a town that somehow both never knew my name but also hated everything about me." To make things worse, the high school auditorium is being torn down to build a lacrosse field. Undeterred in his love of the theater, Nate sets out to stage a musical production of "Great Expectations" in the gym, and instead of getting ostracized, he gains fans among students and administrators alike. "Some days you're a freshman in high school, and though the world is a bubble of suck, inside the bubble you've made something rare and beautiful," Nate observes. Readers will feel reassured that Nate will survive high school and go on to pursue his passion with confidence. "ZORA WAS BOLD and honest like a bumblebee asking to nectar on springtime flowers, and loud and fearless like a bobcat," says 12-year-old Carrie Brown, the narrator of the beautifully written zora and me: THE CURSED GROUND (Candlewick, 250 pp., $16.99; ages 10 and up), by T. R. Simon. In this second book in a promised series that imagines the life of the young Zora Neale Hurston, Zora and her friend Carrie solve a murder in their town of Eatonville, Fla., in the early 1900s. Although Eatonville is the first black incorporated town in America, Zora and Carrie are hardly shielded from the racial violence of the post-Reconstruction era. In "Zora and Me: The Cursed Ground," the two girls learn about the enslaved history of some of their town's inhabitants and the ongoing legacy of that bloody bondage. When Zora and Carrie stumble upon an old slave plantation house in 1903, they can hardly imagine a world where people are treated like property. But then two white men ride into town claiming that the land should never have been incorporated into Eatonville. Zora's father, who is Eatonville's mayor, is forced to take a stance. "The past is coming for us, isn't it?" her mother asks. "White men with lynching ropes will hang us from trees here as easily as they did in Alabama. We were foolish to think that there could ever be a safe place, that we could ever get away." The land in question holds a dark secret, one told in flashbacks from a healer named Old Lady Bronson that slowly connect the past with the present. The flashbacks vividly depict Old Lady Bronson's life as a young girl when she was taken from Hispaniola to Florida to work on the plantation. The connection between slave times and Zora and Carrie's world unravels slowly and with well-crafted suspense and a horrifying surprise twist. "History wasn't just something you read in a book," Carrie observes. "It was everything your life stood on. We who thought we were free from the past were still living it out " MIDDLE-GRADE FICTION has seen no shortage of books in the Harry Potter/Percy Jackson mold - stories of outsiders whisked off to parallel worlds where they discover their special power, receive their education and face trials to determine if they will use their potential for good or evil. These story lines often follow Joseph Campbell's "Hero's Journey" and provide an ample runway for a blockbuster series. Jessica Townsend's best-selling "Nevermoor" set the stage for such a breakout by introducing 12-year-old Morrigan Crow, who is hated and feared even by her own family until she is plucked for membership into the elite Wundrous Society, where those with special talents collaborate to protect the land of Nevermoor against evil elements. Townsend's sequel, wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow (Little, Brown, 337 pp., $17.99; ages 8 to 12), follows her heroine through her first year of training. It's filled with creative details of a school unlike any other (classes in speaking to dragons; half-human, half-tortoise teachers who can slow time). But unlike J. K. Rowling and Rick Riordan, Townsend has created a completely fantastical realm, so it lacks the playful tension between the real and the make-believe (such as taking the Long Island Expressway to Camp Halfblood in Riordan's books). As pure fantasy, it also requires more back story, and "Wundersmith" gets bogged down in places by recapping what happened in "Nevermoor." But Townsend's skillful, suspense-filled storytelling in "Wundersmith" will keep readers entertained, as Morrigan and her eccentric classmates face a test of loyalty and bravery in what will surely be the first of many to come. After all, Morrigan's got five more years of school ahead of her. RUTH DAVIS KÖNIGSBERG, the author of "The Truth About Grief," is working on a master's degree in library science.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-Two years have passed since their last adventure in Zora and Me (2010), but the fictionalized Zora Neale Hurston and her best friend Carrie Brown are as curious as ever about the goings-on in their town of Eatonville, FL, the first all-black incorporated town in the United States. When their mute friend and neighbor, Mr. Polk, is the victim of a seemingly senseless attack and speaks to the town's hoodoo lady, Old Lady Bronson, the friends use their skills and town connections to get to the bottom of the mystery at hand, uncovering a curse that dates back to the time when slavery was legal in the United States. And slavery, to the surprise of Carrie and Zora, wasn't really that long ago. The story of a city separated by 48 years and a war-1903 Eatonville and 1855 Westin, as Eatonville was formerly known-is told in alternating chapters. Simon offers keen insight into how the past affects the present, no matter how many years between them. VERDICT A worthy purchase for all upper middle grade and middle school collections.-Brittany Drehobl, Morton Grove Public Library, IL © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

A curse, the legacy of slavery, and a fight for justice collide in this fictionalized account of author Zora Neale Hurston's childhood adventures, sequel to Simon's Zora and Me, co-written with Victoria Bond (2010).Twelve-year-old Zora Neale Hurston is as brave and adventurous as her best friend, Carrie Brown, is cautious. The year is 1903, and the girls live in Eatonville, Florida, the first incorporated all-black town in the U.S. Late one night, during an escapade, the girls discover their friend Mr. Polk injured outside his cabin. Mr. Polk is known to be mute, but to the girls' surprise, he speaksthough not in Englishto Old Lady Bronson, the town conjure woman, when she arrives to tend to his wounds. By night's end, Zora has made a pact with the conjure woman, and she and Carrie find themselves embroiled in a half-century-old mystery involving an enslaved girl named Lucia. Through alternating chapters, narrated by Carrie in 1903 and Lucia in 1855, Lucia's story and its connection to Zora and Carrie's world come to light. Raw depictions of slavery and its aftermath provide important context as the Eatonville community's resilience is tested in the face of injustice. The voices of Zora, Carrie, Lucia, and their families and friends make for powerful, unflinching storytelling, worthy to bear the name of a writer Alice Walker called a "genius" of African-American literature.An extraordinary, richly imagined coming-of-age story about a young Zora Neale Hurston, the long, cruel reach of slavery, and the power of community. (biographical note, timeline) (Historical fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.



PROLOGUE   There are two kinds of memory. One is the ordinary kind, rooted in things that happened, people you  knew,  and  places  you went. I remember my father this way: laughing, picking me up, singing lullabies in his gentle bass. I see him swinging my mother in a half circle, the hem of her blue skirt flying up to show the rough white thread she used for mending, like a bed of stars along a ridge. The second kind of memory is rooted in the things you live with, the land you live on, the history of where you belong. You tend not to notice it, much less think about it, but it seeps into you, grows its long roots down into the richest soil of your living mind. Because most of us pay this second kind of memory no mind, the people who do talk about it seem to   us superstitious or even crazy. But they aren't. The power of that memory is equal to any of the memories we make ourselves, because it represents our collective being, the soul of a place. After losing my father, after nursing myself to sleep nights on end with glimpses of the past with him, I was well enough acquainted with the first kind of memory. But by twelve I was still too young to pay much mind to the memories held by the town we lived in, by Eatonville itself. That all changed the night we found Mr. Polk, his blood soaking into the earth. When I look back, I wonder how it had never before occurred to me that Eatonville, America's first incorporated colored town, might have a history that stretched back beyond its name and my twelve years. How could I have thought our town began with Teddy, Zora, and me, that it had just opened into the infinite present of our young lives? In fact, we were living out Eatonville's history as blindly as pawns in a century-old chess game. We were no more new or free than the land itself, but like all young people, we confused our youth with beginning and our experience with knowledge. It wasn't until that night -- when we heard the town mute speak to the town conjure woman -- that Zora and I began to forge a real connection with the land, a connection that let us know ourselves through a past we hadn't lived but was inside us all the same. Excerpted from Cursed Ground by T. R. Simon All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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