Josephine against the sea

Shakirah Bourne

Book - 2021

When she discovers her father's new girlfriend, Mariss, is actually a sea creature eager to take her place as his first love, Josephine must convince her friends to help her and use her cricket skills to save her dad from Mariss' clutches.

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Children's stories
Fantasy fiction
New York : Scholastic Press 2021.
Main Author
Shakirah Bourne (author)
First edition
Physical Description
293 pages ; 22 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Ever since her mother passed away, it has just been Josephine and her dad, with the girl going to extreme lengths to scare away any women her dad tries introducing her to. Josephine is convinced that if she can only make the cricket team, her dad will have to spend all his time with her, enjoying the sport that brought them so much joy when her mother was still around. After a stroke of bad luck, however, Josephine takes out her anger on an ancient silk cotton tree, setting off an incredible series of events. Her father brings home Mariss, a woman not so easily scared away, and strange things begin to happen. As Josephine and her friend Ahkai research folktales of Africa and the Caribbean, they begin to suspect that Mariss is a sea mumma, a spirit that demands a tragic sacrifice, and if she wants to save her father and village, Josephine will have to face the ocean. This fast-paced, laugh-out-loud fantasy is filled with humor and vibrant, likable characters, and its suspense will keep the pages turning. The food and culture of Barbados, plus a strong lesson about family, make this magical journey through Caribbean folklore one that readers will be left wishing to return to.

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

Bourne (My Fishy Stepmom) conjures young heroes and a mean game of cricket in a roaring tale of hidden Caribbean mysticism set in Barbados. Spirited 11-year-old Josephine has grown accustomed to living with just her Guyanese fisherman father after her mother's death, but she hates the way her dad avoids mentioning her mom--or discussing cricket, the sport they all loved--and his efforts to move on by dating. Alongside her best friend Ahkai, who's on the autism spectrum and selectively nonverbal, Josephine successfully ousts each prospective partner--the latest with "operation slime"--until the arrival of mysteriously seductive Mariss, with whom her father falls in love. As the relationship deepens, Josephine notices strange household changes, including fading traces of her mother, that hint at an uncanny presence. While struggling to keep her father safe, preserve her mother's memory, and make a cricket team that she's told is only for boys, Josephine looks into a figure of Caribbean folklore. Twining fantastical elements with a steady pace and a contemporary setting, Bourne nets a relatable story of processing grief, trust in one's family and community, and Black girl magic. Ages 8--12. Agent: Marietta Zacker, Gallt & Zacker Literary. (July)

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Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 3--7--Eleven-year old Black girl Josephine has one duty--protect her father. That's why she has successfully scared off all prospective girlfriends through pranks and trickery. Growing up in Barbados, Josephine thinks she's more than enough for her father and even schemes to distract him with their shared love of cricket. Things don't go according to plan and in a moment of frustration, she scratches her initials into a tree. She thinks nothing of it until her father's newest girlfriend Mariss appears and is impervious to any of Josephine's tricks. Turns out, Mariss is a River Mumma, a terrifying creature who can cause many good things to happen, but can and will easily take those things away out of spite or jealousy. Josephine and her best friend Akhai will have to figure out how to defeat Mariss, or it'll be her father who will pay the price. This novel features many references to fascinating creatures from Caribbean mythology, including the protective baccoo and the scary vampirelike soucouyant. As if those two creatures don't sound difficult enough to deal with, Josephine has to contend with what is probably the scariest of them all, the River Mumma. Josephine's determination in the face of great odds is one to be applauded, as it seems there's nothing too big for her. Josephine is not without her limitations, but she learns to do her best to overcome them, making her a character readers will want to root for every step of the way. VERDICT An entertaining read featuring many references to creatures from Caribbean mythology; sure to be a great addition to any library's middle grade collection.--Myiesha Speight, formerly at Towson Univ., Baltimore

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

In a small village in Barbados, folklore comes to life, putting Josephine and everyone she loves in danger. Jo can't stand to see her widower fisherman father with other women, going so far as relentlessly pranking them and scaring them all away. The two are an otherwise tightknit father-daughter duo who struggle a bit to make ends meet. Everything changes when Mariss comes along and simply can't be scared away; though no one else seems to notice, Jo immediately finds this woman as terrifying as zombies, vampires, and spinach! Mariss moves in and unsettles their lives in peculiar and unexplainable ways. Bourne adeptly makes Jo's anxieties both realistic and sympathetic. As Mariss has a hypnotic effect on everyone, carefully plotted pieces of something larger and more sinister come into focus. A last straw for Jo is that Mariss can negatively affect her cricket batting. She has to be a Mami Wata (water goddess) or a River Mumma (mermaid) or something else. Maybe. Jo's investigation, with the help of her best friend and the library, is compelling and suspenseful as it delves into Afro-Caribbean mythology. Still, when it becomes clear that the stakes are her father's happiness and, ultimately, his life, the mystery woman's most threatening power may be how convincingly she's able to gaslight an 11-year-old and isolate her from everyone and everything important to her. A heart-wrenching adventure with big laughs and well-earned surprises. (Fiction. 9-14) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.