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“Bayou Magic” by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Kids Staff Picks

Bayou Magic

Jewell Parker Rhodes
Published: 2015
Age Range: 9-12
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Fantasy
Awards: Author is a winner of Coretta Scott King Award, and Jane Addams Children’s Book Award

Joan read Bayou Magic and this is what she thought…

The story follows 10-year-old Maddy when she spends a summer with her grandmother on the Louisiana bayou. It is a great blend of whimsical adventure and serious issues such as environmental awareness and parent/child relations. I loved how the book took the serious issue of the environment and wove it inside an adventure for Maddy. The reader gets a fun fantasy, with some extra understanding about the world. It reminded me of summers growing up when there were no schedules or homework, and you could run around exploring all day long. Free and independent! It also made me sad and then happy to watch Bear’s relationship with his dad evolve.

I loved Maddy’s Grandmere, and the way she instinctively understood Maddy in a way no one else did. It would be great if we all had someone who “got” us like that. I wish Bear’s father hadn’t died, especially since things were finally improving for him and Bear. I don’t know if it really added anything to the story. The book’s main theme is adventure and fantasy. The reader gets to follow Maddy as she encounters all the new experiences of bayou life. Having magical interactions with dragonflies and mermaids, is balanced with environmental awareness, and concern for all the new people she meets.

Who would you recommend this book to?

Middle grade readers (4th to 6th) who enjoy realistic fiction with a little fantasy thrown in. I really liked this book because there were lots of different parts that came together well. Interesting and relatable characters, problems to be solved, a mystery to investigate, as well as fun, adventure, and a bit of magic!