After reading Jewell Parker Rhodes’ most excellent Ninth Ward, I was excited to learn that her newest children’s novel, Bayou Magic, was released this year. So I quickly requested it from my library and devoured it on my train ride to my in-laws’ house. I’ve come to decide that Ms. Rhodes is one of my new favorite children’s book authors. She is a terrific writer with incredible capabilities in character development and mythology construction.
Bayou Magic takes place in the bayous of Louisiana, in more remote locations than New Orleans. Maddy is our heroine this time. The youngest of five sisters, she’s been summoned to spend the summer with her Grandmère, an otherworldly and respected elderwoman in her neighborhood. There, Maddy learns about her visions and the things that make her “different” from her family. She discovers hints that she may be able to discover a mermaid. And she has visions of a great disaster that threatens the beauty of the bayou she has come to love. There, Maddy must learn to become the heroine she has always dreamed of being, if she is to save others and herself.
Once again, Rhodes excels at depicting female familial relationships, the magic of Louisiana mythology, and the power of a young woman who loves her family and her neighborhood, whether structural or natural. She depicts scenes and relationships of great complexity that are both touching, humorous, and sweet (without being saccharine). This is definitely another must-read. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to devour the rest of Rhodes’s oeuvre.