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Root Magic

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  2,238 ratings  ·  475 reviews
A historical ghost story set in South Carolina in the 1960s—a tale of courage, friendship, and Black Girl Magic.

It’s 1963, and things are changing for Jezebel Turner. Her beloved grandmother has just passed away. The local police deputy won’t stop harassing her family. With school integration arriving in South Carolina, Jez and her twin brother, Jay, are about to begin the
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published January 5th 2021 by Walden Pond Press
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Kathryn Middle grade to young adult. The protagonist is 11 when she comes into her magic ... so think Harry Potter. I can definitely see some kids as young as…moreMiddle grade to young adult. The protagonist is 11 when she comes into her magic ... so think Harry Potter. I can definitely see some kids as young as 8 enjoying it, along with early teens. There are some issues (death in family, police brutality, racism, animals being hurt) that parents or teachers might want to introduce to younger kids and use this as a starting place for discussion. (less)

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Average rating 4.21  · 
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 ·  2,238 ratings  ·  475 reviews

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Gavin Hetherington
Feb 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Atmospheric and all-round-fantastic, a story of twins who discover family magic in their historical setting of South Carolina in the 1960s. Check out my interview with the author on my YouTube channel about 'Root Magic': https://youtu.be/xHiMw_lTgUE

Jez and Jay are twins who have just lost their Gran, and from her death they discover the art of rootwork that their family practices. It protects them from legendary spirits from Gullah folktales, including haints and boo hags. Not only are there dan
Justina Ireland
Aug 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent fun! I highly recommend. Bonus for a sensitive depiction of Gullah Geechee culture. Loved it.
Diana | Book of Secrets
★ Magical Middle Grade Historical Fiction ★

Reading ROOT MAGIC was such a joy — can I give it more than five stars? The protagonist, 11-year old Jezebel Turner, is a mighty and memorable middle grade heroine. Set in South Carolina in 1963, the story follows Jezebel as she begins to study rootwork, a tradition passed down from her Gullah ancestors. Root magic is misunderstood by many to be something evil, but her Uncle Doc is teaching her the good ways it helps the community. She must use her newl
Ms. Woc Reader
Dec 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: black-lead, children
Root Magic is set in 1963 and follows young Jezebel Turner who is turning 11 and entering sixth grade. While her twin brother Jay has no problems making friends that's not the case for Jez. Her peers who often ostracize her because of her family's connection to root work leaving her to feel inferior and be a bit of a longer. Skipping a grade and starting school with new kids is hard enough especially after the recent passing of her Gran. Now Uncle Doc has also decided Jez and Jay should begin le ...more
When I was a kid, one of my favorite novels was Virginia Hamilton’s The House of Dies Drear. I don’t think I really realized at the time what a novel thing it was. Today, kids would not be particularly shocked to encounter a book that combined the long arm of slavery to the present day alongside a ghost story/treasure ala Goonies, but in the 1980s it was a standalone in the field. What I particularly loved about it was how atmospheric it was. For me, it was like a really good episode of The Blo ...more
Apr 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars - This is the kind of middle grade fantasy I love to see. It's completely age appropriate for its target audience while still having well developed writing, characters, and themes to appeal to an adult audience. My heart melted with Jez as she worked to learn rootwork and to make friends... all in all, really lovely story with striking themes ...more
Jan 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing
My ultimate hope for this book is that teachers and librarians who are looking for books for their spooky-loving readers will add this book to their shelves.

There's so much history and Gullah culture in Root Magic. Set in South Carolina in 1963, it follows Jezebel, her twin brother Jay, and their family just after the passing of their grandmother. The time has come for Jezebel and Jay to learn about rootwork and discover what they are capable of.

Can we also talk about the disturbing content in m
Apr 20, 2021 added it
Absolutely magical.
Jan 20, 2021 rated it really liked it


I loved reading “Root Magic.”

There are so many aspects that I appreciated in the tale. Firstly, I loved the timeline. The author nicely connected the characters to what was happening in the 60s in South Carolina. I also loved the beautiful shout-outs she makes to famous poets like Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks. Reading about this trivia inspired me to read some of their works. Secondly, I loved the theme of Rootwork an
breana / milkyboos ♡
Jun 18, 2022 rated it really liked it
i had originally picked this book up last year on a whim, and i'm beating my past self up for not having read it sooner!

the emphasis on family bonds and the passing down of knowledge and culture to young generations was so moving, and i loved the relationship between Jezebel and Jay so much (and the sibling relationship between their mom and uncle Doc!)

this is the perfect book to get you out of a reading slump :") my one and only real gripe is i wish the story had been just a liiiiittle bit long
Mar 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
5 stars for the heart that is contained within this book. Not to mention the story, characters, and cultural importance.

Stunning in the richness of culture, practices, and family it depicts with a simplicity that draws from a well of ancestry and stirs memories in this reader of similar wonders and rituals that are shared and the connections that can be made even to those that differ.

Jez and Jay have to navigate a time that is roiling with changes that may usher in opportunities for them but at
I LOVED THIS BOOK! This book is so, so good. I feel like this was a story that needed to be told. It's raw, hurtful, empowering, so many things. It is a YA book but that never slowed me down for one second. It's the story of twins Jezebel and Jay learning root magic from their uncle, Doc Buzzard. Their Grandmother has just passed away and it's time for the 2 to learn how to protect the family. It's 1963 in South Carolina. The local sheriff is terrorizing Jezebel's community. This story reve
Miya (struggling with pain, keeping reviews short)
I really enjoyed this book. It was so so magical. Literally. I loved the Root Magic being taught and practiced. It felt so much more truthful than other magic based kids books.. I also loved how the author added in history and important topics throughout the book. It felt more meaningful and honest. The representation and diversity was powerful to me. We need more of this! I think any child who is interested in magic would love this read. I’m glad I was able to read it.
Thank you NetGalley for al
Toya (the reading chemist)
Feb 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
Set in 1960s South Carolina, this story follows 11 year old Jezebel ‘Jez’ Turner, who is starting sixth grade. But, she does so without her twin brother Jay since she skipped a grade.

Jez quickly finds herself the constant subject of ridicule thanks to her family’s connection to root work. Following the death of Jez’s grandmother, Jez’s Uncle Doc decides it’s time for the twins to learn root work and their family history.

This story beautifully tells the rich history of Gullah Geechee culture, w
Sep 09, 2022 marked it as xx-dnf-skim-reference
I got to p. 76. Far enough to know that I do recommend this to the right audience. I am not that audience, though, sorry.
Thistle & Verse
Really enjoyed this middle grade and how it incorporates Gullah Geechee culture and folklore. The main character Jez is struggling to make friends after she skips a grade, maintain her close bond with her brother Jay, and learn rootwork from her uncle Doc. Royce is a prolific short story author who's written about Gullah Geechee culture and souther Gothic horror for adults, and it was wonderful seeing that made for a younger audience. She captures this air of magic and menace, and the creepy par ...more
Amy Nicole
I read about 45% of this book, but I am stopping there. I loved the Gullah representation; I grew up watching Gullah Gullah island. I thought this would be a fun fantasy book that incorporated some cultural elements. However, the presentation of 'root work' and conjuring is a bit too "real" for my tastes. I got to the scene where the bat's blood was being collected, and it seems like too much for kids to be exposed to animal sacrifice and blood letting. That crosses a line for me whether I'm bei ...more
Hilary (Melted Books)
This is a middle grade historical fiction/fantasy set in South Carolina in 1963 that follows 10-year-old Jezebel (“Jez”), as she begins to learn rootwork alongside her twin brother Jay and uncle Doc. Having just lost her grandmother and about to start a new school year (this time without her brother), Jez is feeling a lot of change in her life. On top of this, Jez is being bullied in school, the local police deputy keeps harassing her family, and a supernatural presence has emerged outside her h ...more
Rating: Really Enjoyed It!

This was a lovely middle grade read! It tells the story of twins, Jez and Jay, in 1960s South Carolina who are learning root magic from their uncle after their grandmother passes. They find out that there is more to root than the healing and potions that they previously thought there was, and the Gullah legends and stories they grew up being taught are actually true: there are haints, and hags, and other spirits out there that can do them harm.

This was a really atmosph
Dinah Moore
Sep 03, 2022 rated it it was amazing
"'History is the story of who we are. And sometimes, Negro history is told by people who don't think we make a difference in this world. But we do matter. What we think matters. Our voices matter. And our stories matter too much to let someone else tell them.'"

"'So over the years, we forgot the recipes and stories and the songs. We lost them. You still have them, and that's a special thing to hold on to.'"

This middle grade, historical fiction, ghost story is set in 1963 on Wadmalaw Island, Sout
Caroline Tew
May 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was such a cute middle grade novel. It's incredibly fast paced and new developments keep happening constantly. That felt a bit chaotic for me but I think that's perfect for the demographic this book is actually made for. I appreciated the Gullah-Geechee representation and it was so fun to see the area that I grew up around in a magical setting like this. Although I grew up learning about the culture and the nature setting of the novel was super-familiar, I still felt like I learned a lot ab ...more
Feb 01, 2022 rated it really liked it
This book was pleasant to read. It talks about twins who learns root magic to help protect their family from the injustices that takes place. The year is 1963 and Black people are being targeted and to be Black and practice root magic, it’s not safe.

I like listening to the audio to hear the tone of the little girl and little boy (twins). Learning about some of the potions they made was exciting to read and the history of their family.
Feb 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
What do you get when you add family, magic, historical fiction and horror in together? This book. I knew with how it opened that this book was going to be something special and I was not disappointed.
Shaye Miller
Mar 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This was one of those deep children’s novels that is full of mystery and heart. Set in South Carolina in the 1960s, eleven-year-old twins Jay and Jezebel Turner encounter discover family magic and learn how and when to use it. While under their uncle’s tutelage, they encounter paranormal beings and must determine where there’s danger and where there’s good. This is somewhat long for a middle grade novel, but there’s such depth to this story and I enjoyed it thoroughly! My thanks to Libro.fm for ...more
Dec 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
3.5 Stars

I enjoyed this one but wasn't hooked the *entire* time it did have a bit of a slow start (understandable when world building). I did really enjoy reading the family aspects though!
I couldn't help but feel a little bit the way I felt when I first read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry when I was in the middle grades. This is a slow burn, but it encompasses so many complex, difficult topics with nuance, compassion, and importantly in a children's book, hope. ...more
Apr 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book was amazing. I loved the strong sense of family in the story. Also interesting were the descriptions of root work, and all that involves. Trigger warnings for police brutality, violence, and bullying.
Jul 13, 2022 rated it really liked it
It took a while to get going and the pacing lagged a bit here and there but it was such a great story! Wonderful characters.
Jenna (Falling Letters)
Brief thoughts originally published 18 June 2022 at Falling Letters.

Every now and then, I pick up a middle grade book that I read in one day (usually across two sittings, with a meal break splitting up the read). Root Magic was one of those reads. Set in early 1960s South Carolina in a Gullah/Geechee community, a lot of the historical context was new to me. (I hadn’t heard of the Gullah/Geechee people until this book came on my radar.) The story starts off a bit slow and not unlike many middle g
i loved this it was beautiful

also help me kill collins (he’s a racist murderer so yeah)

Jezebel has such a big heart <3 also randomly I love Jay (mostly his name)
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Eden Royce is a writer from Charleston, South Carolina. She is a Shirley Jackson Award nominee and a Walter Dean Myers Award honoree.

Her short fiction has appeared in various print and online magazines and her debut middle grade novel, ROOT MAGIC, was published in January 2021 with Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins.

Articles featuring this book

  Kerine Wint is a software engineering graduate with more love for books than for computers. As an avid reader, writer, and fan of all things...
60 likes · 15 comments
“Gran used to say hurt wasn’t like a splinter that might work itself out after a while, it was a boil that had to be lanced—the hurt had to leak out before it could heal up.” 1 likes
“If no one tells the stories anymore, if no one learns the magic anymore, our ways will disappear from the world. Then all we’ll have is what other people think of us.” 1 likes
More quotes…