Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes, review by Melissa Fox

I've met Jewell Parker Rhodes a couple of times now, and both times the one thing that struck me about her is her enthusiasm. She loves New Orleans,her characters, her stories, and writing for children. And it shows in her books.

In Bayou Magic, Rhodes mixes old African tales and storytelling with a hint of magic as well as an environmental awareness to make something truly unique and joyful.

Not-quite-ten-year-old Maddy is the youngest of five sisters living in New Orleans. As the youngest, she's the tag-along sister, the one that just doesn't quite fit. The only time she truly feels at peace is when she's cooking with her mom. So, she starts her turn to spend with Grandmère in Bon Temps, in the Louisiana bayou, with a bit of trepidation. Her sisters all had a miserable time, but Maddy is more open to Grandmère and her stories. And, soon, Maddy finds that the world has opened up to her: in learning the Old Ways, Maddy has found friends and joy. And magic.

Rhodes' simple, lyrical style was really well suited to this story. She gave the book a very earthy feel, and wove through it old stories and the importance of family. I loved the mix of African and French, of Creole and magic and modern. And, she stressed the importance of caring for and connecting to the earth throughout. At first, I thought that this could pass for "realistic" fiction, that maybe the mermaids Maddy saw were just dreams and imagination, but no: this is speculative, but I found that I didn't mind .

A true gem of a story.

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Bayou Magic Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316224840
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - May 12th, 2015