Set in rural Alabama in 1949, this is another episode in the adventures of two young boys, Ted and Poudlum, who have forged a friendship across the racial divide (Trouble on the Tombigbee, 2011, etc.).
The two set out on a camping trip to train Poudlum’s dog to hunt squirrels, and when the dogs go missing, Ted and Poudlum quickly decide that spooky Miss Lucretia, the voodoo queen living deep in the forest, must be to blame. The boys wind up chained up in her cabin, where they confirm that Miss Lucretia has in fact been well-trained in voodoo, which is presented here as part sham and part devilry. After just a little kindness and conversation, Miss Lucretia bursts out, cringe-inducingly: “Praise de Lawd for sending dese young angels to save my po’ soul.” Once the boys have saved Miss Lucretia’s soul, they proceed to save the rest of her—delivering her from the clutches of an evil relative and helping her to recover some lost buried treasure. As in previous volumes, the boys’ friendship feels authentic, and their exploits are entertaining. Unfortunately, the narrative is unforgivably dismissive of Miss Lucretia, a mature, knowledgeable and obviously powerful African-American woman.
A preachy, condescending tone makes this one a disappointing episode in an otherwise successful series. (Historical fiction. 9-12)