The wonderful thing about inventive ideas is that they’re everywhere you look — just waiting to be plucked and pruned. Here’s one I just love: A book agent and a college lecturer in classics and composition teamed up to create a new series for tweens featuring a smart, feisty girl detective. Who did they model their young female Sherlock on? The wonderful Harlem Renaissance writer, Zora Neale Hurston. What an inspired idea!
The result is Zora and Me, a creative reimagining of Hurston’s life in an all-black, turn-of-the-century town. The fruits of this creative leap into historical fiction: a new book that’s making big waves — Kirkus Reviews called the mystery “absolutely outstanding,” a six-figure advance, and a book deal for two sequels. You go, girls!
Zora and Me is the product of a fast-paced collaboration. The two authors, Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon, wrote the book in about a year. They researched Hurston’s colorful life in order to evoke her hometown, Eatonville, Florida, and give flavor and snap to her character. They wrote their tale by trading drafts and revisions back and forth and included lots of background information in the book to encourage readers to learn more about Zora’s life story and her writing.
Zora and Me has generated lots of excitement among kids, teachers, librarians, and scholars because it addresses a huge gap in publishing (great to know there are huge gaps, isn’t it!?) — the lack of black characters in high-quality children’s literature. Of the 5,000 or so children’s books published in the United States in 2009, fewer than 200 featured major black characters.
At a time when tween girls are being challenged in so many ways, how wonderful to know that two enterprising authors have created an appealing character rooted in real life who’s sharp, feisty, and inventive herself. As one of Zora’s creators summed up: “We are the ultimate plucky heroines! Black girls!”
Sounds like a wonderful idea brought to life — so inspiring!