cover image Bayou Magic

Bayou Magic

Jewell Parker Rhodes. Little, Brown, $17 (256p) ISBN 978-0-316-22484-0

One summer, nearly-10-year-old Maddy Johnson gets swept up in the mysteries of the Louisiana bayou. She’s the youngest of her five sisters and the last to spend a summer with her Grandmère Lavalier, hours from her family’s home in New Orleans. Quickly adapting to life in her grandmother’s wooden shack, Maddy learns about signs and healing herbs, listens to tales about her ancestors, explores the waters with a boy named Bear, meets other locals (who, like Maddy, are a “stew” of ethnic backgrounds), and thinks she sees a mermaid, the legendary Mami Wata. Grandmère’s quiet sadness about the past and worry for the future (“To be a hero, bad things have to happen,” she tells Maddy) strike notes of unsettling and suspenseful tension. Readers will be easily drawn into Rhodes’s (Sugar) heady descriptions, and as environmental disaster threatens the landscape Maddy has come to love, her heroism shines as she protects the community and recognizes her own strength. Ages 8–12. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (May)