Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Hoodoo Book Poster Image
Creepy chills galore in Southern supernatural thriller.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Set in 1930s Alabama, Hoodoo explores African-American culture and folklore, painting a detailed portrait of one aspect of Southern small-town life.

Positive Messages

Sometimes you have to face up to what you fear the most. Family history is important and can help you prevail over adversity. Keeping secrets can be destructive.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Twelve-year-old Hoodoo Hatcher thinks he's the only member of his family who can't do magic, but he still finds the courage to face down those who threaten them. He doesn't want to put his loved ones in danger, so he keeps secrets about the Stranger's black magic.


Murder and a hanging play parts in Hoodoo's family history. A couple of bullies accost Hoodoo and his friend Bunny. The Stranger causes a supporting character to die of a stroke. Hoodoo and the Stranger have a magical showdown.


Hoodoo and Bunny have crushes on each other, but they don't know what to do about it, beyond holding hands and kissing on the cheek.


"Ass," "piss," and "hell" one or two times each.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adult characters smoke cigars and drink liquor. Hoodoo tries a sip of moonshine and quickly regrets it.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Hoodoo is a supernatural fantasy set in 1930s rural Alabama. The plot draws upon African-American tall tales, local legends, and folklore of the South. Although the story's villain causes the death of a supporting character, Hoodoo contains relatively little violence: a fight with bullies, scary dreams, talk of murder and a hanging, and a magical showdown. Strong language includes a couple of instances each of "ass," "piss," and "hell." Sexual content is limited to some first-crush flirting. Adult characters drink hard liquor and smoke cigars. Author Ronald L. Smith won the Steptoe Award for New Talent, one of the 2016 Coretta Scott King Book Awards.

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What's the story?

Twelve-year-old HOODOO Hatcher is an orphan who lives with his grandmother in rural 1930s Alabama. The rest of his family can perform folk magic -- known as "hoodoo" -- but despite his name, Hoodoo lacks the ability to cast a simple spell. When the mysterious, evil-minded Stranger comes to town looking for him, Hoodoo has to find a way to fight back without jeopardizing the safety of his loved ones.

Is it any good?

A vividly rendered setting, a deep background in Southern tall tales and folklore, and a likable reluctant hero of a protagonist distinguish this creepy supernatural thriller. Author Ronald L. Smith hits the middle-grade sweet spot with a gripping historical tale, providing plenty of suspense without overindulging in gore. Readers are likely to be captivated by Hoodoo's first-person voice and will root for him as he struggles to define his identity while facing off against a nemesis schooled in the arts of black magic.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why stories about the supernatural are popular in a wide variety of media. Why do people tell tales about deals with the devil?

  • Should you keep secrets from your close family members, even if you think you're protecting them?

  • Why is it important to be aware of your family history? What can you learn from the lives of your ancestors?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love horror and fantasy

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