CYBILS FINALIST MG Spec FICTION: Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes


If only Maddy sees the mermaid, can it be real?

It's Maddy's turn to have a bayou summer. At first she misses life back home in the city, but soon she grows to love everything about her new surroundings -- the glimmering fireflies, the glorious landscape, and something else, deep within the water, that only Maddy sees. Could it be a mermaid? As her grandmother shares wisdom about sayings and signs, Maddy realizes she may be only the sibling to carry on her family's magical legacy. And when a disastrous oil leak threatens the bayou, she knows she may also be the only one who can help. Does she have what it takes to be a hero?

A coming-of-age tale rich with folk magic, set in the wake of the Gulf oil spill, Bayou Magic celebrates hope, friendship, and family, and captures the wonder of life in the Deep South.


Books written in present tense with short sentences isn't normally my favorite format.  I like longer descriptive sentences when I read, a taste I've acquired as I've gotten older.  But I found that I quite enjoyed this book by Jewell Rhodes, mostly because of the setting.  Despite the shortness of the book, Rhodes manages to create an incredibly evocative setting that I was eager to immerse myself in.  It was clear how much the author loves the bayou throughout the book.  I also loved Maddy and her grandmother as characters, I enjoyed watching them bond despite their differences.  And watching Maddy and Bear become friends through exploring the bayou made me smile.  There were also some hard things in the book, the poverty of the area, Bear's home life difficulties, and of course the oil spill.  The only thing I had a hard time buying into was the mermaids.  Maybe it's because mermaids have never been my thing, but to me it kind of pulled me out of the setting.  Maddy's connection to the mermaids is an important part of the story, but I would have almost preferred the book without it.  I enjoy good folklore, but would have preferred a more realistic story here.  Despite that, Rhodes has created a delightful book about family and friends and taking care of the environment around us.


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