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T.R. Simon Books In Order

Publication Order of Zora and Me Books

Zora and Me (2010) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Cursed Ground (2018) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

T.R. Simon is an American author of children’s book best known for her Zora and Me series. Simon’s debut novel, Zora and Me which she co-written with Victoria Bond was the Nominated for the Edgar Award in Juvenile Fiction category and won Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award in the category of New Talent. Additionally, Zora and Me was also ABC New Voices Selection, Junior Library Guild Selection, Fall Indie Next Top Ten Pick, SIBA Okra Award Winner and 2010 Booklist and Kirkus top picks.

Additionally, T.R. Simon has co-authored Oskar And The Eight Blessings a book that won the National Jewish Book Award and subsequently named best children’s book in 2015 by Miami Herald. The author holds a master’s degree in cultural anthropology, and she’s an add-on lecturer at City University where she lecturers courses on children book publishing. Simon lives in Westchester County with her husband, their daughter and their cute little dog.

Zora And Me

Zora And Me is the first book in a series by the same name authored by T.R. Simon in collaboration with Victoria Bond. The book is inspired by the childhood of a prolific anthropologist and author Zora Neale Hurston best known for her book; Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Simon uses Carrie a fictional friend of Zora to tell the story set in Eatonville, an all-black community where Zora spent her childhood in the 1900s. Even in her fourth grade, Zora is famous due to her storytelling skills or “lying’ skills. But when she begins to tell the stories of her secretive neighbor whose half man half alligator, her classmate Stella has had enough.

But it seems no one cares since it’s a fact no one tells the story better than Zora and the co-authors give clues that Zora is not a typical child. From Carrie’s narrations, the readers get to know that her best friend had a way of giving personality to everything she came across in her neighborhood. A good example is when Zora tells that flowers aren’t just flowers, she imagines that they were one-day royal guards saluting people on their way home. She believes that everything in this world has a soul.

At first, T.R. Simon first seems to paint a perfect picture of the life in Eaton with beautiful swimming ponds, but when Lady Bronson falls at the Blue Sink fishing hole, Zora believes that the half alligator man is to blame. But the mystery deepens after a decapitated body is found on the rail tracks, and the children recognize the body. Zora again believes that the alligator man is to blame. But the true solution to these mysteries are much frightening and complex than the children think- solutions threatened by race relations where skin color could make one man fit to die while making one woman worth protecting.

In her book, T.R Simon emphasizes the theme of racism- one that’s ever-present even in the 21st century. For example, Carrie explains that the only sure way for the blacks to get along was to acts as if they were only running errands for the white people. The only white folk Zora and Carrie seemed to have a positive relationship with was Mr. Ambrose, an old man who helped Zora in her birthday.
Additionally, Zora and Me is all about explaining our lives through a story whether it’s the half gator man Zora imagine or other stories she invents to describe her world. It’s a story that speaks of the power of love and a sense of belonging to a family and community.

The two authors beautifully capture the voice of different characters establishing a real feel of the society at the period. With beautiful language and brief length, Zora and Me would make a good story to read aloud in many at home though it would be challenging to read aloud for most schools due to its complexity in its racial themes.

The Cursed Ground

The second in Zora and Me series picks up in 1903 when Zora and her best friend find two loose horses. They recognize the horse to belonging to a mute neighbor named Mr. Polk. They sneak out and head to Mr. Polk’s home only to find him injured. But it turns out that the girls are not the only witnesses. The old lady Bronson who took care of the old man’s injuries also something happening and to their surprise, the girls witness the old woman speak to the man in a strange language that he answers.

Zora confronts the old woman, and woman makes a deal with her, that if she keeps quiet about what they saw, she would tell Zora a story.
The narrative then shifts back to 1855, and the narration is taken over by a young black girl named Lucia. Leaving Caribbean Island with her white owners Prisca and Frederic and their white owners, Lucia soon finds herself a slave on a plantation in Florida. Before moving to Florida, Lucia was treated well by her white owners. But three years later, Frederic dies, and Prisca’s stepmother sells Lucia.
The story alternates between the present and Lucia’s slavery story. But shockingly, the two stories come together as Zora, and her best friend comes to learn the bitter truth about Old Lady Bronson, Mr. Polk and their own connections to Eatonville’s past and a fact that history isn’t something you read on the books, it’s everything that your life stood on.

Zora And Me is a captivating coming of age historical fiction novel. T.R.Simon has done a fantastic job bringing the periods, the characters and the settings to life. Carrie is a bright, and cautious girl while Zora is a curious, impulsive and intelligent girl and the old lady knows the girls at Polk’s place that Zora won’t leave until the truth is told. The author beautifully shifts from one period to another without jarring her readers, ending each chapter with enough to keep you perusing pages with curiosity to discover what happens next. The author tackles the issues of slavery brutality without apology.

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