Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston
Author: Alicia D. Williams
Illustrator: Jaqueline Alcantara
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books (Simon & Schuster)
Author Alicia D. Williams and illustrator Jaqueline Alcántara have struck a near-perfect tone with Jump at the Sun, a compelling and delightful picture book about national treasure Zora Neale Hurston.
Confession time: I often don’t care for picture book biographies. They’re hard to do well; either their subject matter is too adult for the preschool crowd, or their treatment of their subject is too shallow for the adult reading it. It’s a tricky thing to get right, but author Alicia D. Williams and illustrator Jaqueline Alcántara have struck a near-perfect tone with Jump at the Sun, a compelling and delightful picture book about national treasure Zora Neale Hurston.
This is a book to savor. The cadence and rhythm of the text are hypnotizing. Do me a favor. Read the opening lines out loud: “In a town called Eatonville – a place where magnolias smelled even prettier than they looked, oranges were as sweet as they were plump, and the people just plain ol’ got along – lived a girl who was attracted to tales like mosquitoes to skin. Zora was her name.” Don’t you want to know more? So did I. So will your little listeners.
Jump at the Sun follows a pretty standard chronological map of Zora’s life, from her childhood listening to her neighbors swap stories at Joe Clarke’s general store, to her interrupted education, to her fieldwork in anthropology, to her writing career. Inspired by her mama’s advice to “jump at de sun. You might not land on de sun, but at least you’d get off de ground,” Zora keeps taking higher and more impressive leaps.
Alcántara’s pictures are enchanting. From Florida to Baltimore, to DC, to New York and beyond, her illustrations feel like actions, reflecting the movement present in Zora Neale Hurston’s peripatetic life.
The book closes with a note from the author, revealing that Zora Neale Hurston died in poverty and largely forgotten, a travesty for the author of Their Eyes Were Watching God. She’s still read much less widely than she should be. Hopefully Wilson and Alcántara’s charming book will encourage young readers as well as their adults to seek her out.
More books for this Age Group can be found here.
My thanks to Simon & Schuster for providing a Review Copy of this book. All opinions provided herein are my own.
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