So, I belong to a blogger’s group where I have the great opportunity to hand pick books I think my two young boys will enjoy reading and have them shipped to me in return for an honest review (You can check out some of my past reviews here, here, and here.). When author, Marti Dumas’s new book, Jupiter Storm, was added to the list of books to select from, I didn’t waste a second to get a copy! Dumas is known for her Jaden Toussaint chapter book series whose protagonist is an adorable five year old Black boy who is a science genius. Let me say that again. Dumas writes books about a Black boy genius. A Black boy genius who is the same age as my eldest son, loves science like my son, and even looks like my baby! Yea, I know. It’s got #blackboyjoy written all over it. She’s dope. Now you know why I had to read her new book!
Like Toussaint, the protagonist in Jupiter Storm, Jackie, is also a science geek except this time the powerful aroma of #blackgirlmagic can be inhaled at every turn of a page. Jackie is ten years old and the only girl in a house full of brothers. She, of course, is super curious, so she discovers a chrysalis that has taken shape on her family’s snapdragon plant. After convincing her mother to let her take the plant indoors and place it in her room, Jackie becomes obsessed with charting daily observations of the chrysalis waiting to see when it will break open and release a beautiful butterfly. But when something flies out of the silky sack that is definitely not of this world, this is when the real adventure begins!
Jupiter Storm is a novel meant for imaginative, scientific minds. While my two boys are only four and six and are not ready to independently read this chapter book given the reading level (I’d say 3rd/4th grade and up) and vocabulary, they insisted I keep reading them a chapter or two each night before bed. When I asked them what they liked about the book, here were their responses:
“I like the story. I like waiting to find out what comes out the chrysalis.” (My 6 year old.)
“I like the dragon in it.” (My 4 year old.)
So there you have it! Jupiter Storm–a book with a Black female protagonist that includes dragons, suspense, science AND can be enjoyed by children of all ages and genders. (This book can be read to younger children by an adult so long as you are patient to stop every so often to explain some larger terms and allow them to ask questions. Dumas doesn’t shy away from using more advanced vocabulary, which I can appreciate.)
What I really loved most about Jupiter Storm is Dumas’s intentionality around celebrating and defining #BlackGirlGenius. According to Jupiter Storm, #BlackGirlGenius is a super smart and confident leader. She is observant of the world around her and isn’t afraid to seek answers to questions she has. She knows she is a beautiful inside and out, but doesn’t need herself or anyone else to be obsessed with her beauty to let her know of this fact.
“But Jackie didn’t wear fancy shoes because they made her beautiful. She wore them because THEY were beautiful. And who doesn’t like to be surrounded by beautiful things? And Jackie did like the way she looked–chestnut skin, dark eyes, and a light smattering of freckles if you looked closely enough–but she didn’t sit around staring at herself in the mirror, thinking about how lovely she was. And when someone paid her a compliment about her smile she just said thank you without feeling even a tiny blush of pride.” -page 89
Dumas doesn’t shy away with letting readers know that Black girls are, in fact, beautiful and don’t need any help enhancing their beauty or anyone to convince them they are gorgeous beings. But, through Jackie, she also reminds us that girls are not monolithic—that having multiple interests and abilities that intersect stereotypical gender norms is, well, normal. Like Jackie, they can be super smart leaders who love math while still enjoying playing with paper dolls. These are the types of messages I want my young boys to internalize. These are the lessons I hope all children and adults walk away with when they read Jupiter Storm.
Marti Dumas is changing the face of chapter books–literally. Black characters not only take the lead in all of her books, but they also defy stereotypical narratives and roles often seen attached to them. Dumas IS #BlackGirlGenius.