JUST SOUTH OF HOME by Karen Strong
Kirkus Star


Age Range: 8 - 12
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Twelve-year-old aspiring astrobiologist Sarah Greene digs into a dark history to help heal her family, both those present and from the past.

Sarah’s thieving cousin, 11-year-old Janie, a “citified” Chicago native, stays with her family in their small, country town of Warrenville, Georgia, for the summer and continuously uses her “five-finger discount” whenever she wants. When Janie disturbs the town’s haints, restless spirits with unresolved business on this spiritual plane, by taking a necklace from the haunted ruins of a black church burned down by the Klan, Sarah must lead her cousin, little brother, Ellis, and their friend Jasper into the woods during the dangerous Witching Hour in order to communicate with and save the souls trapped there. Strong’s prose pours from her pen like iced sweet tea on an August afternoon—it’s refreshing, steeped in tradition, and mixed with love. Many characters are familiar Southern staples in black communities. Devoted deaconess Mrs. Greene, the children’s paternal grandmother, whom they always address formally, with her loose, wavy hair and light skin, leans deep into colorism; her nemesis, Mrs. Whitney, the town conjuring woman, is dark-skinned and always adorned in all white, and she memorializes the victims of lynchings in their county. No punches are pulled when these personalities collide in this sometimes-spooky ode to how an unacknowledged past can come back to haunt us.

A stirring Southern middle-grade book that burns brighter than fireworks on the Fourth. (Supernatural adventure. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 7th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-5344-1938-4
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2019


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