Book Review: HooDoo by Ronald L. Smith

HooDoo is a middle grade novel by Ronald L. Smith. 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 a solid middle grade book with a gothic or horror overtone. There are little bits of humor tossed in, along with a little historical fiction, but this is not for the easily creeped out readers. I liked the character of HooDoo, he is trying to do right by his family and find his way in the world but he is still very much a boy becoming a young adult.  He is facing the evil of the Stranger while coming to terms with himself, and learning new things about himself. The danger is solid, and there is a almost constant feeling of wondering what is coming next. HooDoo's family and friend Bunny are less well developed characters than HooDoo, but are still well written and described enough that I cared about all of them before the story was over. I will admit that it took me awhile to read this one, but I am very glad that I saw it through and finished it. I can see this being a well loved book by many of my middle grade readers.

HooDoo is an interesting and unique read. It combines the best qualities of historical fiction, coming of age, and horror reads and leaves the reader looking for a bit more. I think fans of The Night Gardener and similar books will particularly enjoy this read. 

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