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Bayou Magic

Review

Bayou Magic

Following in the tradition of her previous books for children, Jewell Parker Rhodes spins a coming-of-age tale that's steeped in a perplexing piece of American history with BAYOU MAGIC:  The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Consistent with her stories, Rhodes often features quiet, unassuming characters who are the least likely to make significant waves in their lives.

In BAYOU MAGIC, Rhodes creates 10-year old Madison Isabelle Lavalier Johnson (Maddy) --- the youngest in a family of five worldly-minded sisters, as she prepares to leave New Orleans for the bayou to spend the summer with her Grandmère. Unlike her sisters' disconcerting comments about their grandmother and her strange lifestyle, Maddy has a connection with this unusual woman and she feels like she's living "in a magical cottage deep in the forest."

A tenderhearted and inspiring read to add to Rhodes's outstanding historical fiction collection, there is no doubt in this reviewer's mind that BAYOU MAGIC is destined to be another award-winner.

And it is indeed magical as Maddy explores deep into the bayou with a gangly boy named Bear, acquaints herself with the Bayou Bon Temps community, hears Grandmère's firefly stories and, most importantly, sees a mermaid Grandmère calls Mami Wata. In the midst of upbeat moments, Maddy's dreams tell her things aren’t as perfect as they seem. When crude oil starts taking over the waterways after an oilrig explosion, Maddy has to find a way to stop it from destroying Bon Temps.

Surrounded with a tight cast of foiled characters, Maddy feels the pressure to get out of her protective shell and face her fears. Two prime foiled examples are Grandmère, whose odd yet encouraging comments have Maddy constantly wondering about life and the environment; and Bear, whose adventuresome spirit keeps Maddy on her toes.

Rhodesutilizes other literary tools to keep her narrative fresh and moving. Capturing the unique language of the Louisiana bayou, Rhodes laces her engaging dialogue with a bit of Cajun French. Naturally, Rhodes's plot is replete with the sights, sounds and nuances native to the bayou, and the author uses the setting as a major springboard to discuss environmental and family issues. Bringing all these elements together, Rhodes slowly but deftly builds her storyline by alternating un-hackneyed scene changes within each chapter.

Reviewed by Anita Lock on April 13, 2015

Bayou Magic
by Jewell Parker Rhodes

  • Publication Date: May 3, 2016
  • Genres: Fantasy, Youth Fiction
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0316224855
  • ISBN-13: 9780316224857