Twelve-year-old Hoodoo Hatcher was born into a family with a rich tradition of practicing folk magic: hoodoo, as most people call it. But even though his name is Hoodoo, he can't seem to cast a simple spell.
Then a mysterious man called the Stranger comes to town, and Hoodoo starts dreaming of the dead rising from their graves. Even worse, he soon learns the Stranger is looking for a boy. Not just any boy. A boy named Hoodoo. The entire town is at risk from the Stranger’s black magic, and only Hoodoo can defeat him. He’ll just need to learn how to conjure first.
Set amid the swamps, red soil, and sweltering heat of small town Alabama in the 1930s, Hoodoo is infused with a big dose of creepiness leavened with gentle humor.
Smith debuts with a supernatural coming-of-age story set in a 1930s Alabama town. Twelve-year-old Hoodoo Hatcher was born into a magical family, but he has no knack for folk magic himself. His father was "a powerful mojo man" who allegedly met with a "bad end" after placing a curse on a man. One day a stranger comes to collect a debt left by Hoodoo's father, and the boy must learn to access the supernatural to help his father in the afterlife. Hoodoo's distinctive first-person narrative is speckled with lively dialect and atmospheric details of Southern life, from fried catfish dinners and moonshine to "mojo bags" full of cat's-eye stone and rat bone. The action of the novel moves swiftly, and readers should be easily drawn into its dark, supernatural ambience. There's little doubt that Hoodoo will prevail, yet chilling moments throughout will keep readers on edge: "The Stranger smiled, but he didn't have any teeth, just a mouth full of black, oozing swamp water." Ages 10 12.
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A wonderful character set in a place that is familiar yet not
Engrossing and carrying a touch of spooky, Smith’s Hoodoo Hatcher is a 12 year old boy, born into a family in depression era Alabama. With both parents dead, his grandmother (Mama Francis) and Aunt Jelly are his parental figures. Named Hoodoo for the birthmark, he’s been unable to conjure even the smallest of folk-magic spells, unlike the rest of his family.
But, a mysterious stranger comes to town and everything changes. Soon, Hoodoo must find, with the help from his friend Bunny, a way to outwit and defeat this stranger who means to cause trouble for everyone he knows, most importantly him.
Lovely imagery that gives a glimpse into depression-era days gone by, full of realities like segregation, poverty, legends of Railroad quilts and even some moments of brimstone. While on the surface this is a very typical boy finds the power within himself and saves the world plot, Smith imbues the story with heart, history and several facts that add greatly to the story while never missing a beat in the action. Characters are completely built as they arrive, never delving into over the top stereotypes, but carrying that nugget of possibility that helps make them strike a chord of familiarity. Several twists bring the story through a path of increasing tension, while keeping a steady pace to the finish.
Perfect for middle grade and reluctant readers, there is a touch of whimsy in the premise that is sure to engage imaginations and kindle the flame that spurs more reading. A wonderful character set in a place that is familiar yet not, and he will resonate with readers from all places.
I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.