Jump at the sun The true life tale of unstoppable storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston

Alicia Williams, 1970-

Book - 2021

Zora was a girl who hankered for tales like bees for honey. Now, her mama always told her that if she wanted something, "to jump at de sun", because even though you might not land quite that high, at least you'd get off the ground. So Zora jumped from place to place, from the porch of the general store where she listened to folktales, to Howard University, to Harlem. And everywhere she jumped, she shined sunlight on the tales most people hadn't been bothered to listen to unti...l Zora. The tales no one had written down until Zora. Tales on a whole culture of literature overlooked...until Zora. Until Zora jumped.--

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jBIOGRAPHY/Hurston, Zora Neale
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Picture books
New York, New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers [2021]
First edition
Item Description
"A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book"--Jacket.
Physical Description
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 29 cm
Includes bibliographical references.
Main Author
Alicia Williams, 1970- (author)
Other Authors
Jacqueline Alcántara (illustrator)
Review by Booklist Review

Williams recounts the life of author-anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston with an emphasis on her activities as a storyteller. From an early age Hurston enjoyed listening to and retelling stories she heard from neighbors and friends. Her mother counseled her never to settle for the status quo but instead to "jump at de sun," advice Zora always heeded. She went to great lengths to become educated, including once lying about her age (26) in order to attend free public high school. Williams employs southern dialect and vivid descriptions throughout, helping readers to imagine the story's various settings (Florida, Baltimore, and Harlem) and she avoids mention of the controversies that surrounded Hurston. The text is straightforward, with sidebar speech bubbles used to add detail. Alcantara's digitally enhanced marker-and-gouache illustrations employ brilliant colors (some neon) and fanciful touches throughout (for example, vegetables and other objects perform Hurston's stories). She also pays homage to Hurston's penchant for hats, although it goes unmentioned in the text. Upbeat and age appropriate, this makes a fine introduction to this talented woman.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Newbery Honoree Williams crafts distinctive prose evoking Black folktales from the American South in this picture book biography of Zora Neale Hurston, "a girl who was attracted to tales like mosquitos to skin." In colloquial and figurative language ("She spooned out Eatonville trickster tales to whoever'd sop 'em up"), Williams centers Hurston's love of storytelling, following her life from her childhood spent listening to tales on a general store porch and her mother's early encouragement to "jump at de sun," to being evicted at age 14 by her stepmother, enrolling in high school at age 26, writing during the Harlem Renaissance, and "collect Negro folklore" around the world. Alcántara matches Williams's skillful narrative with fluid, atmospheric art that uses speech bubbles to add further dimension. A lively, joyfully rendered portrait of a literary legend. Back matter includes an author's note, additional reading, and sources. Ages 4--8. (Jan.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 3--This vibrant portrait of the early life and career of Black American writer Zora Neale Hurston (1891--1960) is sure to inspire young readers. Newbery Honor--winning author Williams follows Hurston from her childhood in Florida through her success as a writer in New York, emphasizing her efforts to reach each milestone in her career. Hurston is characterized as tenacious, and she overcomes seemingly insurmountable obstacles to pursue her dream. Alcántara's luminous illustrations will immediately engage readers, with saturated colors and captivating use of shadow and light. The narrative showcases a strong sense of setting. Readers can envision a lush Floridian landscape during Hurston's younger years, and later, the energy and promise of the Harlem Renaissance. Williams's lively prose employs dialect and a conversational style; it begs to be read aloud. The tone is a fitting tribute to Hurston's writing style and her work in researching and preserving African American folktales. This title is more of an inspirational story of grit and determination than a resource for school reports, but an author's note provides additional details about Hurston's life and work and includes further resources. VERDICT A welcome addition to any picture book biography collection; Williams deftly underscores the value of perseverance and education while highlighting the achievements of an influential Black female author.--Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Lib., CA

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Horn Book Review

"In a town called Eatonville...lived a girl who was attracted to tales like mosquitos to skin." So begins the evocatively descriptive account of the life of acclaimed storyteller Zora Neale Hurston. Young Zora spent the favorite parts of her day at Joe Clarke's general store, where she would listen to her elders tell fantastical tales of "how that trickster Brer Rabbit always got the best of Brer Fox," the origin of "squinch owls," and more. She didn't mind passing them on, either; perched atop the gatepost that led to her house, Zora would relate those tales -- and a few of her own -- to any passerby who would listen. While some family members chastised her for "lying," Zora's mother encouraged her consistently to "jump at de sun. You might not land on de sun, but at least you'd get off de ground." These "jumps" carried Zora to Howard University, then on to Harlem (and its burgeoning Renaissance), and right back down to Eatonville, where she continued to do what she did best -- trade, tell, and write down stories. Rich with down-home vernacular, the text immerses readers in the Southern tradition of oral storytelling. The illustrations prove just as dynamic, with vibrant spreads bursting with brilliant-toned hues and enjoyable details to notice (e.g., the fashionable hats famously worn by Hurston -- modeled by anthropomorphic animals). Snippets of folktales are paneled loosely alongside the biographical story; Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox are no respecters of borders, with both making multiple appearances. Back matter includes an author's note, sources, and additional reading, for both "Youngins" and "Older Folk." Eboni Njoku March/April 2021 p.128(c) Copyright 2021. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

From her girlhood days to her legacy as a writer for the ages, Zora Neale Hurston is introduced to young readers. "In a town called Eatonville--where the magnolias smelled even prettier than they looked…lived a girl who was attracted to tales like mosquitoes to skin." Zora, clad in overalls and running through fields, loves being sent to Joe Clarke's store, where she turns every quick errand into a chance to listen to the stories being told on the store's porch. When she tells her own tales, her father and her grandmother punish her for "tellin' lies," but her mother values her stories and encourages her to "jump at [the] sun." She wants more for her children than working the land. Sadly, her mother dies, but Zora remembers her encouragement throughout her life, which she spends in and out of different schools in different cities before finding her place in New York City as a writer and folklorist, a career that takes her back to her all-Black hometown to record those front-porch stories. Zora is depicted as the fun-loving, strong-willed person she most certainly was, and the text uses dialect as playfully as Zora did to transport readers into her world. Whimsical illustrations show Zora's many worlds--country and city, school and social life--with energy and joy. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 58.6% of actual size.) This introduction to an American icon feels just right. (author's note, additional reading, sources) (Picture book/biography. 4-9) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.