Jewell Parker Rhodes
Little, Brown and Company, Fiction, May 12, 2015
Suitable for Ages: 8-12
Themes: Bayous, Magic, Environment, African-Americans, Louisiana, Grandmothers, Friendship, Hope
Synopsis: At home, she’s just plain Maddy to her four older sisters. It is 10-year-old Maddy’s turn to spend the summer alone with her grandmother in the Louisiana bayou. Her sisters tease and frighten her about Grandmère Lavalier, who they claim is a witch. But after a few days in the bayou, Maddy begins to feel a kindred spirit in Grandmère and at home in the enchanted beauty of her surroundings. She learns about healing herbs, wisdom, and listens to stories about her ancestors and the Lavalier magic. Maddy begins to wonder if she is the only one in her family to carry family’s magical legacy.
Maddy finds a good friend, in “Bear,” a shaggy-haired boy who takes her on great adventures into the bayou. The bayou becomes her playground and she’s having the time of her life exploring its wonders and secrets. Everything speaks to Maddy, including the fireflies and a face she sees deep within the water. Could it be a mermaid, the legendary Mami Wata? When there is an explosion on an offshore oil rig and the leak threatens her beautiful bayou, Maddy knows that she may be the only one who can help save the Bons Temp bayou.
What I love about Bayou Magic:
- Jewell Parker Rhodes’ novel is a whimsical adventure into another life that feels more real to Madison Isabelle Lavalier Johnson, than her real home in New Orleans. Rhodes has spun a story of pure magic. Her writing style is very lyrical.
- The setting is lush, believable and magical. Fireflies shimmer in the sky at night as residents of the Bons Temp swamp come together to contribute to the pot of jambalaya, eat, dance and tell stories well into the night.
- The characters are colorful, eccentric and realistic. Maddy is a courageous and hopeful heroine who already has a sense of reverence and gratitude about her. She thanks the hen for laying eggs for breakfast, a fish for giving its life for lunch, and the fireflies that call her. Grandmère is eccentric, the Queen of the bayou who takes care of its residents with her natural medicines. Bear is a lively friend that coaxes Maddy to explore and teaches her about the fragility of the bayou ecosystem.
- What a glorious plot, filled with adventure, wonder, mystery and danger. When her grandmère asks Maddy one day, “Who do you want to be?” Maddy shares her secret, “A hero. Like in my stories. I want to do good. Be brave.” Maddy is tested before the summer is over when a disastrous oil spill threatens the gulf and the Bons Temp bayou. Does Maddy really have what it takes to be a hero when bad things happen? A time of great tension for Maddy and the community.
- There is a quiet theme of hope rippling through the novel. At the end, the author says that “In Maddy, I poured all of my love for young people who seek, each and every day, new and better ways to care for our earth’s natural resources.” I highly recommend this novel.
Jewell Parker Rhodes is the Coretta Scott King Honor Book award-winning author of Ninth Ward and A Jane Addams Children’s Book Award winner of Sugar, her first novels for young readers. You can visit Jewell Parker Rhodes at her website. She has a Teaching Resource for educators.
18 thoughts on “Bayou Magic”
A great book to introduce children to another world. It sounds well written.
It is a captivating story that introduced me to another world. Teens will love it and the Bayou magic! And, it is well writtern.
I really enjoy magical realism and this sounds like a wonderful book about a region of the U.S. I’m not that familiar with!
You’re right, it is magical realism. And, I wasn’t familiar with the Bayou region, where flooding is always a possibility. This story just draws you into the mystery of the region.
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I keep thinking I will one day read “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” which is also set around that area of Louisiana, isn’t it? I haven’t yet but I think this book is a better fit for me. 🙂 I’m not much into hot and heavy adult fiction. LOL!
This book is light, fun and magical!
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My kind of book! 🙂
Sounds beautiful. I’m glad you shared this book.
It is a beautiful coming of age story and one where the characters stay with you for a few days.
I am putting this straight onto my TBR list. It sounds magical and with my interest in the region, a must read.
Without a doubt you would love this captivating and magical story. The text is lyrical. Since you love the region, you will love this story.
Oh! This does look beatiful!
It is beautiful and magical, Niamh. I really enjoy excellent writing with great characters.
Pat, This sounds like a wonderful coming of age story. Do you think it might also appeal to boys? Great review!
Yes, I think it may because one of the main characters is “Bear” who teaches Maddy the secrets of the Bayou. He reminds me of “Huck Finn.”
This one looks up my alley, Pat. 🙂
Yes, I think you’d love Bayou Magic! It is magical!
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