Jem and the Yumboes is a fun fairy fantasy adventure. When eleven-year-old Jem follows an unknown creature into an African forest, she enters the world of the Yumboes. She soon discovers that there are forces that threaten these tiny fairies and sets out to help them.
Targeted Age Group:: 8 – 12
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I've loved the fantasy genre since I was a child. I came across the mythical creatures, "Yumboes" (West African fairies), and realised that there wasn't a good book on them for children.
I imagined the setting of an African forest and the story developed from there.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The main character, Jem, is on the cusp of being a teenager and yet she discovers that she still has a lot to learn. This includes finding her inner strength and thinking before she acts. I believe these are qualities that many can relate to.
The other characters are mainly mystical – The Yumboes, An African dragon (wyvern) and well, a flying dog. Shouldn't every book have a flying dog in it?
A Mouse and a … Mummy?!
It all began one hot summer evening on the outskirts of an African forest. And as adventures go, it had very small beginnings. I’d wandered off while following a rather unfriendly, but delightful, brown mouse I’d seen hopping about in some scraggly greenery. Down on my knees I rifled through leaves to peer underneath.
“Darn it, Mouse! Stay and play awhile.”
Mouse ─ like all mice ─ didn’t listen.
“OK, you win!” I said in frustration. “You’re too fast for me anyway!” Perhaps Mouse isn’t the best playmate, I reluctantly admitted to myself. Toby, my five-year-old baby brother, was way better. I turned back to see if he wanted to play.
It was then I heard a slight rustling and whirled around, just in time to see a small strange being dart through the forest undergrowth into the rose-coloured twilight.
“Cakes and Crumbs!”
I rubbed my eyes in confusion. What is that? It isn’t an animal … It’s way too small to be human … It must be a trick of the light – The late dusk light can play tricks on you, after all.
I blinked five times, like I always did when I saw something strange. But, I could still see it, and it was fast disappearing. I raced after it, forgetting all about my intention of playing with Toby; all about my parents; all about everything ─ except finding out what this strange creature could possibly be.
The creature in question was the most curious thing I had ever seen. It was small ─ no taller than two rulers atop each other─ with the body of a human. Most curiously of all, it was wrapped from head to toe in white cloth, almost like a mummy. Only its bright indigo eyes and button nose were visible as it scarpered through the dense bushes, moving so quickly and dexterously that I had trouble keeping up with it.
“Oh, nasty rats and beastly bats!” I cried as my daffodil-yellow sundress caught on a low twig.
R-R-I-I-PPPP! There was that familiar dreaded sound I knew so well. I didn’t want to look. But it was there anyway: a large hole ripped in the cotton skirt of my sundress. Mum would be mad that more of my clothes were ruined.
“You’re too much of a tomboy,” she’d told me just yesterday. “Why can’t you wear dresses like other girls?” Her left eyebrow arched like it usually did when we had this discussion. “It’s high time you started acting like a girl, Jemima. Anyway, it’s far too hot in Africa to wear jeans. You’ll sweat like a pig if you live-and-die in them!”
Not a great thought. Personally, I thought dresses were a total waste of time. I loved my jeans and simple T-shirt. They understood me. If it was up to me I would ‘live-and-die’ in them.
Blast acting like a girl!
The voice in my head said: See what acting like a girl gets you, Mum – another ripped dress!
I raced on regardless, battling my way through spiky twigs and large leaves in pursuit of the little creature. And as we neared the forest edge, the tiny individual stopped and stared back at me.
To my surprise it raised its wrapped arm in a universal gesture and signalled: Come…
I hesitated for about a second. After all, I was eleven years old─ eleven year-old kids are almost teenagers aren’t they? Last time I’d heard, teenagers aren’t afraid of anything!
So, although my heart pounded like that of an Olympic sprinter after winning her final race, I knew this must be due to excitement alone. In that moment I was driven by one thing only: curiosity! I almost whooped with excitement. This miniature humanlike and mysterious being seemed to be inviting me on an adventure that I could not ─ and should not─ refuse.
After a while, I saw I was rapidly losing sight of the creature. I sprinted. I can’t be alone in the dark.
Blast my curious nature!
“Hey, wait!” I called out, panting to catch my breath. “Slow down! I can’t keep up with you.”
Luckily, the tiny white shape must’ve heard me. It slowed. And in a few moments, we left the tricky forest terrain behind us. I sighed with relief upon seeing the lush green hills stretching out before us. Now, that’s more like it!
As the evening gloom deepened I could just make out the hazy form of the creature on the raised ground ahead of me.
We travelled on and on for what seemed like ages. I gasped for air with the effort to keep up. So much for PE classes at school improving my fitness levels! I bent over and inhaled deeply. It smelled just like the ocean. That delicious sea-sharp smell was unmistakable. I could hear it, too – the soft lap-lapping of waves.
When I strained my eyes to see ahead, I saw that the little being had stopped. Was it waiting for me?
With a final burst of energy, I clambered after the creature, and as I rounded the mound, was amazed to see it entering the hill through a hidden doorway. When I reached the wooden door, I paused to take another deep breath. Then, tentatively, I pushed it open…
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