From School Library Journal
Gr 4-7–A spirit of gentleness pervades this story, along with an air of mystery and natural magic. The novel is set in Eatonville, FL, and imagines Zora Neale Hurston's life from about fourth to sixth grade. The narrator, Carrie Brown, is probably based on the Carrie Roberts in Hurston's autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road (1942). Other major players such as Zora's family, Joe Clarke, and the kindly white man who bestowed Zora with the nickname Sniglets, are also drawn from Dust Tracks, and the history of Eatonville. With its combination of adventure, history, and introspection, Zora and Me will work best in classrooms–perhaps where an enticing read-aloud is needed but the audience is somewhat captive–for the times when the narrator sounds more like an adult than an 11-year-old, commenting about how “stories guard the pictures of the selves,” memory can be one-sided, and “good things alone don't make up a person who's real.” The authors have taken great care with historical accuracy, and the book is endorsed by the Zora Neale Hurston Trust. Zora's reputation for tall tales and her urge to see the world are directly tied to the real Hurston's natural storytelling ability and desire to travel. A brief biography, time line, and annotated bibliography are included.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TXα(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* Told in the immediate first-person voice of 10-year-old Carrie, Zora Neale Hurston’s best childhood friend, this first novel is both thrilling and heartbreaking. Each chapter is a story that evokes the famous African American writer’s early years in turn-of-the-last-century Eatonville, Florida, and the sharp, wry vignettes build to a climax, as Carrie and Zora eavesdrop on adults and discover secrets. Family is front and center, but true to Hurston’s work, there is no reverential message: Carrie mourns for her dad, who went to Orlando for work and never came back; Zora’s father is home, but he rejects her for being educated and “acting white,” unlike her favored sister. Racism is part of the story, with occasional use of the n-word in the colloquial narrative. Like Hurston, who celebrated her rich roots but was also a wanderer at heart, this novel of lies and revelations will reach a wide audience, and some strong readers will want to follow up with Hurston’s writings, including Their Eyes Are Watching God (1937). The novel’s back matter includes a short biography of Hurston, an annotated bibliography of her groundbreaking work, and an endorsement by the Zora Neale Hurston Trust. Grades 5-8. --Hazel Rochman