Cover Image: Root Magic

Root Magic

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Member Reviews

Was really glad to see the author’s note that this was inspired by her family.

This book is somehow a page turner even without a specific force driving the plot. There are lots of things that keep you reading and come together in the end (the rootwork, friendship, the police…) I took very little notes because I didn’t want to stop reading. Very original.
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Root Magic by Eden Royce is fantastically well written. I cannot wait to use Root Magic in my middle grade classrooms with students to be able to dig into Royce's craft with descriptive language and setting the tone and mood of the story. The character development of Jezebel and Jay will lend well to so many lessons as the characters are so relatable for students. Root Magic is one of my favorites of this year!
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I love that in the last few years we've begun to see more fantasy novels that include black history, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, I loved it! This book had so much culture! 

I love the message of friendship and family. Jez and Jay have the sibling relationship I always wanted and it was so lovely to read about, especially in two black children

It was full of suspense and kept me glued to the page. This is the perfect book for middle school aged kids look for a spooky book, a book rich with culture, and book that will allow them to see themselves portrayed as more than a cautionary tale.
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Eden Royce transports readers to the lowcountry of South Carolina in Root Magic. You can close your eyes and smell the salt air and the pluff mud and the sweetgrass. Royce balances the social issues the Gullah family faces with the magical elements of rootwork. You can't help but fall in love with Jez and her family. This enchanting story will have a permanent spot on the shelf in my classroom.
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Jezebel and Jay Turner are 11 year-old twins whose grandmother has just passed away. They come from a line of Gullah root workers--which is harnessing the power of the natural world around them and making potions and powders from the land--and they want to begin learning how to protect their family especially now that their grandmother is gone. Jez and Jay enter a world in which magic is real and their inner-strength is their super power. Set in 1964 South Carolina, Root Magic integrates history, folktale, and magic as we root for Jez and her family who face supernatural and human evils. 
Written in first-person from Jez's perspective, readers get insight into how intelligent, yet lonely Jez is having skipped a grade and feeling like the odd-one-out in her class. This was a magical middle grade read full of real fear and magic interwoven with facts from the early 1960s. I love a middle grade novel that is factual fiction and folktale as part of the narrative that transports readers to the time, place, and feeling of folks growing up in the time. A transporting book that readers of all ages can appreciate!
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I know that 2021 has just barely begun, but ROOT MAGIC is likely going to be one of my top reads for the year.  In midcentury South Carolina, 11-year-old Jezebel Turner and her twin brother Jay learn more about their heritage and how to use their talents for good. I’ve not, in a good while, get so wrapped up in a story. Royce’s prose is delicious, and so accurately captures the feeling wanting to belong, both amongst one’s peers as well as larger society. The story is as timely as ever, with all the heartache and power it entails.
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I simply could not put this one down.  Learning about Gullah history and culture, and watching the twins get trained by their uncle in working root, or root magic was irresistable..  I certainly hope to never meet a boo hag or a haint in real life.  This is for those kids who want a spooky or scary story.
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Jezebel Turner is a young girl growing up in South Carolina in the 1960s.  She lives with her twin brother, Jay, her mom, her uncle, Doc, and up until very recently her grandmother.  Her father is gone, and even though those in her community aren't well to do either, they publicly look down on her family for practicing root magic.

Jez is a young girl coming into her own. After the death of her grandmother, the school year starts.  Since she's skipping a grade she will no longer have the protection/companionship of her twin brother Jay.  School becomes a rough place for her because of girls like Nettie, who do all they can to make her life miserable.  Her most desperate wish is to make a best friend, which Jez finds in Susie.  But why is Susie just a "lunch buddy"?  Jez wants her uncle Doc to teach her all there is to know about her families root ways.  Is her family strong enough to survive without Gran's protection?

As an awkward young girl who spent her nose in a book and counted her grandmother as her best friend, I felt a connection with Jez.  This book is perfect for my students who like a smart, spooky read.  And my social justice minded students will cheer on the fate of Deputy Collins.  A great theme book for "the things that make you different, make you special".
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On the one hand, I'm a fan of fiction that explores underrepresented populations, especially their folklore and belief systems. We have some cook complexities, intermixing magic and social issues. With Black characters in the 60s, it should be no surprise that racism plays a major role in the plot. But Royce takes it a step further, exploring prejudices and social judgments within their own community. And the portrayal of rootwork goes beyond a few spells. There is the exploration of spirits and monsters and how root ties them back to their family history. It is power, both for good and for darkness. On the other hand, this book has an historical setting which can be a challenge for middle grade fiction. Additionally, the difference between monsters and evil doesn't get nearly enough exploration. In fact, the characters and their relationships are pretty surface level. The writing skews young, so the degree of depth is probably sufficient.
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I have not been to South Carolina yet, but Royce certainly made me feel like I was in its marshes in 1963. The connections between characters were really what drove the story behind the scenes and made the story and characters feel authentic. As someone not previously familiar with root magic, I found all of the lessons and background fascinating, so much so that I am hoping for a sequel. It is hard to pin down a genre for this book for me, because it combines so many with the historical time period, elements of fantasy, and moments of suspense and fear. I will definitely be purchasing this for the library.
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Great middle grades historical fiction, magical thriller with Gullah representation! I enjoyed this on a lot
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This was a magical story about 11-year-old Jezebel and her twin brother Jay as they navigate South Carolina in the 60s, boo hags, school bullies, and root magic. I loved the family dynamic and exploration of Gullah Geechee culture. Recommend!
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I received an eARC of Root Magic and I am so grateful that I did!
Set in South Carolina in the early 60s, Jezebel’s story is part historical fiction, part ghost story, part African folklore. It’s also a deep dive into a culture I knew very little about: the Gullah Geechee people, who live, work, and create among sea islands along the southeast coast.
So, sounds like a lot for a middle grade book, right? Sure. But the author weaves the setting and background into the (very exciting) plot of the story that I didn’t realize how much history I was absorbing until the book was over and I was Googling like crazy, wanting to know more about root workers and this beautiful community of healers. 
The setting also informed the characters’ reaction to the violent racism of the time. Many parallels can be made to the abuse of power of Officer Collins and some officers today. I also found myself frustrated at the impotence of the sheriff, who wanted to help and offered words of support, but was unsure of what to DO. 
Finally, the push and pull of the twin relationship was one that struck a chord. Jay and Jez are at that age where they’re growing apart, physically and emotionally. But their bond is true and I felt that part strongly as a twin. 
Root Magic is a wonderful book, a window (Bishop) into a world and culture so unlike my own, and I will share it with students to broaden their perspectives as well. But I’ll also share it because it’s a GREAT read!
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Root Magic is a perfect middle grade scary story about tradition and magic and families and friendship that also discusses difficult issues like police brutality, racism, classism, bullying, cruelty, and loneliness - and does it so well.  

Jezebel Turner is a very relatable character - she's a super smart and kind 11-year-old, but she is ostracized because of her family's Gullah rootwork traditions (even though many of the families of the jerkass kids in her class use the Turner family's spells). I love the relationship between Jezebel and her twin brother, Jay, and the family dynamic as a whole.

Overall such an excellent debut - I cannot wait to see what Eden Royce writes next (*hint* PLEASE WRITE A SEQUEL *hint*)! 

Perfect for 5th grade +. I'm so excited to start recommending this book to my scary-loving kids at school!
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Gullah and rootwork were both vaguely familiar to me and I am so grateful for this book and what I learned.  There is so much we lose as a society when we do not appreciate and explore the many cultures that make up the people of our country.  
At its core, this is the story of a little girl in search of a friend..  She must face death, monsters and a journey of self discovery that is not typical in children's literature.  Mildly reminiscent of the Jumbies, Jezebel discovers how real the stories she has heard all her life actually are.  From haints to boohags to zar - the story holds wonderful history of superstitions and magic.  But it also holds hope, and the power of the desire to do good and what it means to be a friend.
There are some scary moments (supernaturally and all too real); and reading it as an adult, I ponder who the real monsters in the story are.  Well done, Ms. Royce..
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Root Magic is probably my top favorite middle-grade novel... like ever! You've got the paranormal, a historical setting, tight family ties, the inner struggle we all face a bit of while trying to grow up and figure out "how we fit in," and just a bit of creepy! 

Royce doesn't shy away from hard topics like racism, and also addresses conflict within the African-American community about moving forward vs holding onto the ways of your ancestors. As someone not of this community, I really appreciated the chance to read even a little about something I wasn't familiar with, that is, rootwork, and the Gullah culture. 

I loved the strong female lead Jezebel presented, even as she struggled to find herself and find a sense of belonging - Jezebel shows you can be tough, and still tenderhearted and sensitive to the needs of those around you! (Susie, her love of animals, etc.) 

This novel may be written for a younger audience than myself, but Root Magic kept me riveted from beginning to end, and I will be eagerly waiting to get my own hard copy, as well as anything else Eden Royce publishes in the future!!!
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Eden Royce is debuting with one magical historical fiction book for young readers! This is a mix of historical (dating to the 60's) and paranormal-fantasy. It was so well done, and I felt like I was alongside Jezebel Turner, Jay, and Uncle Doc working root. The portrayal and voice of all of the characters was stellar. Since this was in the 60's school integration was just getting started in South Carolina. Jezebel and Jay were going to have a troublesome time at school, but also at home too because their Uncle Doc was going to teach them root work. This story touches on historical African American folk magic, wonder, family, racism, friendship, and courage. It is one of those unforgettable stories that you know you'll want to read it more than once!
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Jez and Jay are twins starting school in the South Carolina Lowcountry in 1963.  Their grandmother has just died, their dad disappeared quite some time back, but they have a strong family unit with their mother and her brother, Doc.  Jez and Jay are starting to learn some of their family traditions, which include root magic, a brand of magic that has connections not only to the Gullah culture but all the way back to Africa.  This is an exciting mystery with lots of plot twists and scary characters.  I think the kids are going to like this one a lot.
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It isn’t every day that you see Gullah culture explored through the eyes of middle schoolers — unless you were a 90s kid who enjoyed the fantastic Black programming that was Nickelodeon’s Gullah Gullah Island, of course. While Eden Royce’s debut middle grade story also follows the travails of a Black family from the island, the similarities end there. Root Magic is a story about eleven year old twins Jezebel and Jay Turner set in 1963 wherein they deal with the recent death of their grandmother, what that means for their rootwork education, and coming of age. 

Because the opening scene occurs at the funeral for the twins’ grandmother, we are thrust directly into the feelings Jezebel wrestles with in losing her best friend. Despite having her twin brother, she has always felt isolated, particularly at school where no one will hang out with her. As Jezebel goes through the motions of her grief, she realizes more and more how much her grandmother’s presence meant to her. This specific school year brings Jezebel increased anxiety as she is moving up a grade ahead of her brother, so when she faces bullying by the older, more financially secure girls at their segregated school, she learns there are some obstacles people aren’t meant to face alone.

Her desperation following this realization combined with the rootwork lessons that her uncle, Doc, has begun to teach her and her brother leads her to create her first spell, one to conjure her first true friend. Just when it seems like the spell is working — she’s found a true friend in another solitary girl in her grade, Susie — she learns that there may be more to the girl than meets the eye. On top of her friendship woes, her family is continually harassed by a police deputy who has led raids on rootworker families in their area for years and is rumored to have led to many of their disappearances. While Doc’s teachings help the twins to become better connected to their ancestors and their abilities to protect their family with different root work, these teachings do not seem to rid them of their troubles. Instead, it makes the Turners targets of the police and Black families who look down on their ‘backwardness.’

The exploration of Gullah Geechie root work stands out in this coming of age debut novel all about embracing African heritage along with the young people the twins are growing into. I appreciated the ways the book shows Jezebel becoming more aware of burdens and worries that her mother carries, as seems integral to a lot of the experiences of my peers when we were this age. Showing the ways the family carries on tradition while grieving their powerful matriarch, even when it leads to the questioning of their identities within the larger Black community, is a discussion to be had by people of all ages.
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A girl who wants nothing more than a friend finds a connection deeper than she had ever imagined.

Royce shows us a part of America that is often misunderstood in Root Magic. On the eve of twins Jezebel and Jay’s 11th birthday, they remember the life of their grandmother and the stories and the secrets she took with her in death.

Doc, their uncle, will begin teaching the twins the rootwork practices of their Gullah ancestors. Their mother doesn’t stop him but would rather the twins focus on schoolwork.

Jezebel makes a new friend at school, but she is secretive. Jezebel also discovers that her understanding of rootwork is intuitive, and she has more abilities than her brother.

We see Jezebel help spirits and animals no matter what the stories say. She shows us a brave soul, not only in a town that doesn’t accept her family but also in 1960’s America with rampant and violent racism.

This is, at times, a scary book. With haints, boo hags, and white racist and violent acts. It also is full of family love and support.

The writing was good, I only wish the author had broken some of the events into different books, but it did highlight the talent and perseverance of Jezebel in the face of constant adversity.

This book is a good fit for 4th, 5th, and 6th graders who like to be a little scared and also for readers who enjoy folklore and mythology. Fans of The Tristan Strong books by Kwame Mbalia and The Jumbies by Tracy Baptist will want to try this book.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher Harper Collins Walden Pond Press for the ARC.
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