Zora and Me

Based on Childhood of Zora Neale Hurston

Zora and Me - Middle Grade Book Cover
Cover of paperback edition. Candlewick Press

Summary of Zora and Me

Based on the life of author Zora Neale Hurston, the story fictionalizes events surrounding Zora in the all-black community of Eatonville, FL, during her fourth-grade year, about 1900. The story, narrated by Zora’s best friend, Carrie, enables the reader to feel the power of Zora’s storytelling abilities. Zora and her friends learn that truth is sometimes stranger and more complicated than imagination.

Mysteries and thought-provoking situations infuse the story with action as well as biography. This debut novel, endorsed by the Hurston Estate, introduces a new generation of 9-14 year olds to the life of an important literary figure.

Pros

  • Good introduction to Zora Neale Hurston for young readers
  • Well-developed characters
  • Excellent description of setting
  • Additional information includes a bibliography, a timeline and short biography of Hurston’s life

Cons

  • Some violence and frightening situations

Description

  • Title: Zora and Me
  • Author: Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon
  • Length: 170 pages
  • Recommended For: Ages 9-14
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication Date: Paperback, 2011; hardcover, 2010; audio and e-book editions, 2010)
  • ISBN: Hardcover ISBN: 97800763643003, paperback ISBN: 9780763658144
  • Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Book Review - Zora and Me

Zora, Carrie and their friend Teddy try to escape Florida’s oppressive heat of late summer by swimming, fishing and sitting under their favorite tree telling stories.

Zora’s creative imagination seizes upon the idea that a reclusive neighbor is half-alligator. She and her friends try to prove the story, with unfortunate results. Zora and Carrie become acquainted with a beautiful woman with a terrible secret.

As these stories are resolved, Zora and Carrie learn about human nature, ambition, loneliness and honor.

They also learn about racial prejudice and the danger of being a black person in the South. The authors capture the setting and language of central Florida and make the characters come alive on the page.

Hurston grew up in the sheltered environment of an all-black town, which is an important element in her growing realization of what prejudice and danger are like in the rest of the South. The authors skillfully weave elements of Zora’s life into the narrative, introducing people and situations important in shaping her life. At an early age Zora’s imagination and curiosity propelled her to create stories and to hear the stories of others, helping to shape her career as an author and anthropologist.

The short biography, timeline and annotated bibliography at the end of Zora and Me provide factual information about Zora Neale Hurston and her life as an author and a folklorist. Zora Neale Hurston is well-known as an African-American literary figure and for her association with the Harlem Renaissance. (Source: official Zora Neale Hurston site)

This novel serves as a jumping off point for further explorations of Zora Neale Hurston’s stories as well as discussions of racial prejudice in the South.

Teachers can pair this with picture book versions of some of her age-appropriate stories, such as “Roy Makes a Car” and “Lies and Other Tall Tales” to enhance the study of Southern writers and folklore.

For More About Zora Neale Hurston

The following resources from About.com may be helpful to readers, as well as parents and educators seeking background information:

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

10/13/15 - Edited by Elizabeth Kennedy, About.com Children's Books Expert