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Stormwitch Hardcover – December 9, 2004


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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6-10–This story offers a smooth blend of historical fact, suspense, and magic. In August 1969, Haitian-born, orphaned Ruba Cleo moves to Pass Christian, MS, to live with her grandmother. Despite the woman's stern Christian disapproval, Ruba clings to her belief in the ancestral lineage and power of the Dahomey Amazon women whose blood is in her veins. From her recently deceased Haitian grandmother, Ba, the 16-year-old learned chants, spells, and herbal potions that empower her to face destructive forces. When she encounters hostility and racism in the local community, her warrior psyche impedes her understanding of her grandmother's fears and struggles. However, as Ruba learns about Freedom Summer and the sacrifices of the civil rights workers, she begins to recognize and appreciate the warrior spirit in others. When Hurricane Camille slams into the Gulf Coast just as a white boy holds her and her family at gunpoint, Ruba musters her spiritual and emotional powers to save their lives and realizes that her training and perspective can be adapted to any time, situation, and place. Ruba's vivid descriptions and her reflective observations and lyrical letters to Ba belie early admission that she is learning and practicing English. Although the simultaneous timing of a gunpoint assault and the arrival of one of the century's worst hurricanes seems far-fetched, Ruba's tumultuous battle with the mystical stormwitch is compelling and liberating. Like her Mississippi cousins, readers will find Ruba an intriguing adolescent mix of cultural pride, emotional insecurity, and stubborn determination.–Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 7-10. In this forceful blend of fantasy and historical fiction, a girl calls on the magic of her African ancestors to fight racism and dark spiritual forces. In 1969, after her beloved grandmother Ba is killed, 16-year-old orphan Ruba moves from Haiti to coastal Mississippi, where her other grandmother lives. Ba trained Ruba in the fierce, powerful ways of their descendants, the Amazon warrior women from Africa's Dahomey, but Grandmother Jones thinks Ruba's spells, conjuring, and dances are "Satan's Tools." Against her grandmother's protests, Ruba struggles to use her Amazonian powers to fight racist Klansmen and even a hurricane powered by a ruthless spirit. Long passages about Dahomey history and lore threaten to overwhelm the suspenseful action. Still, the details are fascinating. Some readers may be confused by Vaught's wild blend of history and magic (an author's note helps sort out what is real), but teens will easily relate to Ruba's desire for empowerment, her rage, and the provocative questions about justice, race, and the role of violence in creating change. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 17 years
  • Lexile Measure: 720L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (January 3, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582349525
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582349527
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,808,792 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I started writing when I was eight, and I try to write a little bit every day even though I'm a psychologist, too. I love to hear from readers.

I especially love to hear from kids and young adults who enjoy writing and reading. I'm also happy to answer parent-questions about the content of my books--or to hear from grown-ups who like what I write, too!

I hope my book make people think, make them talk, and more than anything, let them escape into a well-told story.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Voracious Reader on April 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It's hard to find non-stereotypical stories with elements of fantasy that include strong African Americans. Ruba is wonderful, empowering character with great strength. Although the book is set in the South I appreciate the author's inclusion of Ruba's Dahomey tribal roots- that she is the last of the female warriors from a once fierce African tribe.

The text was easy to read, the story was exciting and the author doesn't tread tired old territory when including incidents of racism.

Finally, a fresh approach and an engaging story that allows my daughters to see girls like themselves in the spotlight! Stormwitch has been a good addition to our personal library. I highly recommend it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Library Maven on August 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is not a fantasy containing the usual elements. Ruba's journey from Haiti to Mississippi is absorbing, her gradual mastery of her powers fascinating. The book touches on civil rights as well as magic, and the final confrontation in which Ruba is facing the violence of human beings and of the weather is extraordinary. Strongly recommended for reluctant readers of middle grade age, sure to appeal to every reader who likes fantasy and a sense of historical time and place, this is a must for all school library shelves.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lloyd T. Monday on February 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book very much. I love the way this author tells a story. I can feel the characters breathing as I read. Looking forward to more stories from Susan Vaught.
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Format: Hardcover
Ruba lived in Haiti with her maternal grandmother, Ruba Cleo, who taught Ruba the traditions of the women warriors of Dahoney, Africa, from whom they are descended. But when Ruba Cleo dies battling a storm sent by the Stormwitch, Zashar, Ruba has to move to Mississippi to live with her paternal grandmother, Maizie Jones.

But the Mississippi of 1969 is a far different world than Haiti. It's an explosive world of civil rights and desegregation and the Ku Klux Klan. It's a world where a black person could be killed for crossing the wrong person. And Grandmother Jones is very different from Ruba Cleo, or at least she seems so at first. She wants Ruba to become a good Christian and to give up the "witchcraft" she learned from Ruba Cleo. She also wants Ruba to keep her head down and say "Yes, ma'am" or "Yes, sir" when talking to a white person. But Ruba, a descendent of proud African warriors, can't do either, as much as she wants to please Grandmother Jones. Soon, Ruba finds herself fighting evil on two fronts, as she runs afoul of the local Klan wizard, just as the Stormwitch approaches with the most powerful storm that Ruba has ever known.

A powerful story told in an accessible way, Stormwitch brings to life both the devastation of Hurricane Camille and the horrors of segregation. It has elements of both fantasy and historical fiction. It's a stroke of brilliance to show a segregated Mississippi through the eyes of a strong black female, who not only grew up away from the culture of segregation and discrimination, but who has the pride that comes from knowing that she is descended from a long line of female warriors. The contrast makes the horror of being a black person in segregated Mississippi that much more real.
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