I’m still working on unpacking from our camping trip and trying to get back into the routine of things. Also, I’m officially registered to go to Kidlitcon in Baltimore this October!!! Do let me know if you’re going, too.
Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Hachette Books, 2015.
Maddy, short for Madison Isabelle Lavalier Johnson, is the youngest of four sisters. All the older ones have been sent, one by one, to spend a summer in the bayou with Grandmére. Now that it’s Maddy’s turn, they warn her that there will be nothing to do. But Maddy finds that she fits into the bayou better than she’s fit anywhere before, and the boy named Bear whom Grandmére decides will be Maddy’s friend turns out to be a good one. The bayou is filled with nature, with people who are all different shades but universally friendly and giving despite not having things that Maddy would have considered basic back home. Maddy is surprised to learn that everyone calls her Grandmére Queenie, and comes to her for healing remedies and advice. Most important to Maddy are her grandmother’s stories, stories of her ancestress coming over from Africa as a slave, followed in the water by Mami Wata, a mermaid goddess, who carries the light of hope along with her.
Maddy will need to learn everything she can about her family’s heritage, because she has inherited magic from her long-ago ancestors, and a crisis is about to come where she will need to use it. This is a book filled with heat of multiple kinds – the sticky warmth of a bayou summer, the spicy heat of a community jambalaya, and the supportive warmth of family and community, as well as the cool light of the fireflies that follow Maddy around. There’s a strong environmental theme, love of place, and the deep history of Maddy’s people. And Grandmére asks Maddy a question no one has ever asked her before: “Maddy, who do you want to be when you grow up?”
This one would pair naturally with Kathi Appelt’s True Blue Scouts of Sugarman Swamp.