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Reviewed by:
  • Hoodoo by Ronald L. Smith
  • Kate Quealy-Gainer, Assistant Editor
Smith, Ronald L. Hoodoo. Clarion, 2015 [224p]
ISBN 978-0-544-44525-3 $16.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 5-8

Despite his name, twelve-year-old Hoodoo has never been able to conjure like the rest of his family members, who, by the 1930s, have been practicing folk magic for decades. Nonetheless, Hoodoo is content with his life in small-town Alabama, living with his strict but loving grandmother, Mama Frances, and hanging around with his friend Bunny. When a stranger comes to town, however, bizarre things begin to happen—corpses are dug up from their graves, mysterious screams echo throughout the night, and Hoodoo begins to have terrifying dreams of a red-eyed demon demanding his left hand. An encounter with the Stranger in the swamp leaves Hoodoo shaken; when Hoodoo finally reports all this to Mama Frances, she reveals that Hoodoo may have to pay for the misdeeds of his father, a powerful mojo man who “came to a bad end.” Hoodoo’s narration is quick and engaging, filled with colloquialisms and direct addresses to the reader that echo oral storytelling. Smith is careful to include details of the Jim Crow South (Hoodoo and Bunny attend the Colored Folks’ Day at the county fair, and Mama Frances works tirelessly for wealthy white families) while depicting the richness of Hoodoo’s close knit African-American community and the beauty (and danger) of the Alabama setting. The horror element is just as vividly drawn, with the terrifying Stranger rivaling Barraclough’s Long Lankin (Long Lankin, BCCB 9/12) in his creepiness. The straightforward plot makes this accessible to younger readers, and the atmospheric setting will certainly leave them with a chill. [End Page 114]



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