From the Bayou—Be Part of a Magical 200 Book Giveaway!

***Sponsored by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers***


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

Find out—and enter for a chance to win an advanced-reader copy of Bayou Magic, a brand-new book from award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes. Two hundred lucky teachers (yes, you read that right, 200!) will win. So enter now and tell all your colleagues!

Here’s how to enter: simply read the Q&A with the author below and submit a comment on our blog by 11:59 pm EDT on May 31, 2015, to let us know why Jewell’s books are perfect for your students. We’ll randomly select 200 lucky teachers to win. Please note, to be entered into the contest, you must include your full name, mailing address, and your school’s name with your comment so we can send you your book if you win. Your name and address will not be posted with your comment nor will they be saved; we are asking for these simply so we can mail you your book.

In this book, 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 the only 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?

Bayou Magic is the third book in what Jewell calls her Louisiana Girls trilogy. Included in the trilogy are Ninth Ward, a Coretta Scott King honor book, and Sugar, winner of the Jane Addams Peace Association Children’s book award. Discover ways to incorporate all Jewell’s books in your classroom using these handy educator guides. Visit her online at





You wrote award-winning books for adults before you started writing for children. What inspired you to start writing for children? What challenges and rewards are there in writing for children?

I’ve always wanted to write for children. Writing for adults helped me practice my craft but I never stopped studying children’s literature and exploring ideas. After four decades of serious writing and experiencing the heartache of Hurricane Katrina, I, finally, heard a girl’s brave voice and began writing Ninth Ward. The challenge is to remain emotionally truthful. My reward is visiting schools and reading children’s letters.


You’ve written about Louisiana in your adult fiction and also in your middle-grade novel, Ninth Ward, about Hurricane Katrina, and in Bayou Magic, which deals with the oil spill disaster—and you’ve written with such affection. What connection do you have to Louisiana?

In my first creative writing class, the professor said, “Write what you know.” I wanted to write what I could imagine. So, I went home; pulled my Time-Life Creole and Acadian cookbook off the shelf; and, inspired, wrote a story rooted in Louisiana culture. I’m actually a Pennsylvania/California girl. But Louisiana profoundly stirs my heart, mind, and spirit.


Ninth Ward, Sugar, and Bayou Magic feature such wonderful grandmother figures. Was your own grandmother an inspiration for these characters? What did she have in common with Maddy’s grandmère?

My grandmother raised me and taught me southern folklore and traditions. Besides being a minister’s wife, she was also a hoodoo healer. She “mothered” our entire community. Maddy’s Grandmère is most like my grandmother, and her sayings are actual quotes my grandmother spoke to me. Mama Ya-Ya (Ninth Ward) and Mrs. Beale (Sugar) are elders who honor my grandmother’s caregiving and love.


I had never heard of the Mami Wata. How did you decide to include her in Maddy’s story?

African diaspora tales are often lost or left untold. The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art featured an exhibit of 500 years of Mami Wata incarnations in Brazil, the US, Africa, and the Caribbean. Literature teaches culture. I want girls of color to know there are heroic mermaids that mirror them. I want all girls to know there are diverse, global mermaid tales that depart from the western trope of a mermaid transforming herself for a prince.


You travel all over the world teaching creative writing to students of all ages, and you teach writing at Arizona State University as well. How do you find time to do your own writing? What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

For me, consistent writing, in small doses, makes a novel. If I waited to have more time, I’d never write. It also helps that I only write stories that I feel passionate about, so I’ve never experienced writer’s block. For aspiring writers, I’d urge them to honor their voice and the process. A writer writes. Every writer’s process is different. “Find yours.”


Are you planning a return to Louisiana in your next book for children? I’d love to see more of Maddy, Bear, and Grandmère. What other writing projects are in your future?

My next project is Towers Falling, and it’s about Dèjà who discovers how her life has been impacted by the 9/11 New York terrorist attacks. As always, my writing follows my heart. I’m open to voices, characters that appear like ghosts when I’m doing the dishes or dreaming. I suspect Louisiana will haunt me again.


There is plenty of folk magic in Maddy’s story—Mami Wata and the mermaids, the fireflies—but I think the real magic of the story lies in Maddy’s bravery. What was the inspiration for Maddy’s character?

None of my Louisiana girls are based on real characters—I hear a voice, and I follow. The first line is very important. Maddy announces, “My name is Madison Isabelle Lavalier Johnson.” That sentence was my gateway. As I wrote, I was astounded at how different and special Maddy was—how her rhythm was slower, more thoughtful than Lanesha or Sugar. Maddy is a courageous girl. Does she exist? Of course, she does. While unique to my book, Maddy channels girls everywhere.



Don’t forget, you can WIN a copy of Bayou Magic by submitting a comment to  say why these books are perfect for your students. Send your comment right now. Two hundred teachers will WIN! Good luck!


108 thoughts on “From the Bayou—Be Part of a Magical 200 Book Giveaway!

  1. These books appeal to the students that enjoy learning about new places. Thanks for offering this opportunity to add to my classroom library.

  2. Wow social studies and to learn about such a wonderful place.
    Thank you I know I would enjoy reading this as well.

  3. These book is perfect for the girls especially. So many books are written based on mythical creatures, more boy oriented. I teach dragonology and have taught fairy houses and mythical creatures in the 21st Century school program, so this book would be a great addition to my collection, even when I find my forever classroom.

  4. Wow! I, too, want to convey these empowering and hopeful messages to ALL of my students!
    “It also helps that I only write stories that I feel passionate about, so I’ve never experienced writer’s block. For aspiring writers, I’d urge them to honor their voice and the process.”

  5. This is such an awesome giveaway! I love when books explore totally new places for students. It seems like it will be a magical read for students of many ages!

  6. I love the spirit of this author and how she is commited to bring history and culture to girls everywhere. I also like how she gives her time to teach writing to both children and adults. I think girls can be really inspired by these books!

  7. Once I saw the theme of the book, I knew I had to have it for my classroom. I know my students will connnect with a character who looks like them and lives in the south as they do. I am always searching for books with smart female leads that allows little girls in my class to explore vicariously through them. I especially like that there is an educator’s guide and I’ll be checking that out next!

  8. I would love to win a copy of your book Bayou Magic. My daughter has to read Sugar over the summer for her third grade reading assignment. I can’t wait to read it with her and discuss it. I also teach second grade and this would be a great story to read aloud with my students.

  9. My class just finished a unit on fireflies and when I saw this book I was instantly interested. I think its great for students to see the different cultures and experiences the author provides to them through her books.

  10. My class would absolutely love this novel! Many of them have read Sugar, and really enjoyed it. My students are very interested in books with strong African characters, as well as mythical creatures. I think this book would be awesome for a read aloud and to use with my enrichment class!

  11. I love Louisiana and all things Creole; music, food, language, culture!! I am a librarian in a city as large as mine on an international border, and when I find books with strong female characters of color (African American, Hispanic American…)I grab them!!

  12. I am super excited for an opportunity to win this book! I love the premise behind the book and think it will be an awesome read-aloud!

    Thanks for the chance!

  13. These books sound wonderful! I think the students would be drawn to the books because of where they take place and the events surrounding them. I love learning about the Bayou and would some day love to visit it.

  14. I have taught the same students 3 years in a row. I try to introduce them to new authors and genres. Since I teach in a school that is comprised of 97% African/Caribbean American students, they can connect to this character. I love when my kids can make connections with characters. I would love to add your book to my class library.

  15. This book would be perfect in my social studies class. My students and I love to read about different places and events. My students really love stories involving history.
    Thank you for the chance.

  16. Bayou Magic is just what the kids in my school need for their classroom library. It would be a great read aloud for students to let their imaginations take them away to the time and place of the story while sitting in our small urban classroom!

  17. This author will be visiting our county schools next year! I just bought a copy of Sugar to have her sign it. Now I can have another of her books to get autographed! Thanks, Learning!

  18. This book sounds like an amazing read aloud or book club book for my fourth and fifth grade students. With the lead character being a strong spirited girl, I think this book is just why my reluctant female readers need. I am also excited to show the correlations between his novel and some nonfiction pieces about Bayou culture and traditions.

  19. I am always searching for books with female protagonists for my classroom. I think it is important that children are exposed to positive female role models.

  20. Perfect addition to the classroom library. Great way to spark student’s imagination, and to inspire their own writing.

  21. I have been waiting for another book to come out from Jewell Rhodes!!! My 4th grade class loved 9th Ward as well as Sugar.

  22. My classroom in Dallas is full of students whose only connection to other cultures is what they see on a video screen or a social media post. I love the idea of them building their reading comprehension with stories that help them embrace other cultures and views.

  23. What a fantastic book to use to help teach across the curriculum. From science, to social studies, language arts, and writers workshop.
    I would love to have one of your books.

  24. I’m a para-educator, student of teacher education and a parent of a 13 year-old daughter. I would love to have a copy fo read with my daughter.

  25. What a great book for my students to read! It sounds like a fun read full of magic and excitement. I’m sure they can relate to certain characters and the location. This would be a great book to add to our library.

  26. I have a great group of girls and boys this year who would be inspired by reading this book. I’ve been inspired just by reading what it’s about. Stories about unlikely heroes are always a favorite of my students.

  27. I believe these books would be great for my students because we are a small rural school in Indiana and these books would help to increase cultural awareness and sensitivity.

  28. In class, we talk a lot about carefully observing and noticing the things all around us in order to be inspired. These books sound like great examples of that and could serve as inspiration!

  29. I have used Ninth Ward twice with our Mother Daughter Book Club. I love Jewell’s writing, depth of characters and wonderful plots. Her books hare enjoyed by both boys and girls. Wonderful Read Alouds. I would also share this book with my friend who teaches 6th grade. Very excited to read Bayou Magic!

  30. Love a book that speaks of a child coming into their own through learning about themselves and their families and my students tend to as well.

  31. The Bayou Magic is a wonderful book to share with youngsters. I will be teaching at a new school this year: Monelison Middle School, 7th grade English. These books would be great to share with my students.

  32. I teach 7-8 graders in the Special Needs Department and this book series would be great to use with the students in learning about another culture compare to our culture, and how the author being about the character(s) and other story elements. I will incorporate inactive hands-on story bulletin boards allowing the students to research varies elements of the places and what resources would/could be found there. What a great unit this series could bring to my classroom!

  33. My girls loved ninth ward! I will definitely add your new book to my first book order next school year.

  34. It is so inspiring to have a girl be the heroine in a story. I like to have these kinds of books in my library to help my girls see that they can be strong and powerful and courageous but still be feminine.

  35. I teach English as a Second Language, and The Bayou Magic is a perfect book to share with my students as they come from different parts of the world. My students can relate to Maddy, missing home and adjusting to their new surroundings. Comparing and contrasting their past living environment with their current status. This is a great book!

  36. I work with low-income families, many of them have never traveled out-of-the-state. However, books with strong characters, books that support diversity allow educators to connect children and families with a broader world.

    I would love to share this book with others.

  37. “Literature teaches culture.” I so appreciate your reminding everyone what a powerful tool literature can be. As someone who spent her childhood in Louisiana, I love that you write stories that are relevant to all children while revealing a culture that is often neglected. As a Media Specialist, I value these books that portray strong females. I look forward to sharing Maddy,who “channels girls,” and her story while giving voice to every girl!

  38. Being a librarian at an elementary school, I collaborated with the fourth grade teachers and students in acquiring classroom sets of “Ninth Ward” and downloaded the recording of the book. The students simply loved it. As the students were less than a year old at the time of Katrina, it was a wonderful history lesson and an opportunity to experience what their families, neighbors and the people of their city went through during this horrific period in time. It also exposed them to the strength, perseverance, and humanity of the people of Louisiana in order to overcome the many obstacles caused by this natural disaster. I am sure the students will gladly welcome a similar book by an incredibly talented author.

  39. I just finished NINTH WARD and was deeply moved by Lanesha’s story. Two things struck me, and I continue to think about them (which, to me, is always a sign of a great book). First, Lanesha did not have time to mourn – she moved forward despite to challenges she would face in the aftermath of Katrina. And second, she was never afraid of the ghosts that surrounded her but rather used them as she did her encyclopedia, to gain knowledge.

    I can see bringing this book into the classroom in my classroom book club, where we can dive deep into character development as Lanesha’s tale unfolds.

  40. I teach 300 k-5th grade students from the library of a small school with big ideas in Seattle WA. It is easy to imagine hearing our 4-5th graders reading Bayou Magic with the same delight as when Ninth Ward was an all school (Gr 3-5) read a few years back. Vibrant characters with of magical realism is just the ticket to catch and enchant readers.
    I can’t wait to share it with readers@library!

  41. I LOVED Sugar and Ninth Ward and I know I will love Bayou Magic, too! My students LOVED Sugar–We read it as part of our Newbery book project when it was out and I already know that Bayou Magic will be on my 2016 Newbery list! I lead a book group with Sugar and can see myself leading a book group with “Bayou Magic” too! I hope our library wins! We Skyped with Jewell and I hope we can do it again!Thank you for the opportunity!

  42. I teach EC at a K-5 school in small group setting. I love the book and would love to share with me students.

  43. I am not familiar with this author yet, but I am excited to explore her work with my advanced 2nd grader. She will love Bayou Magic in particular because of the folk magic elements. I would love it because I love Louisiana and there will be so much I can teach with this. It would be a great addition to our US regional/cultural studies this year as we look at the South. I look forward to checking out Jewell’s other books in the series as well.

  44. A parent was kind enough to give me the copy of Sugar that I requested. It looks delightful and I look forward to reading it this summer.

  45. This will motivate my students–and engage them! It sounds on point for what my students enjoy learning about!

  46. As a teacher of middle school students who read from BR to 6th grade levels, I am always looking for books to activate the interest of my students. These books would be wonderful!

  47. Looks most interesting! I am always looking for new, exciting, and engaging reads. I have a group of girls that would devour these books. I will be looking for the titles to try out from our local library. Would love to win to have the books in my classroom collection.

  48. I teach GT students just outside of Houston. We were familiar with refugees from Katrina/New Orleans, and have always been intrigued by their culture and experiences. We’d love to have one of these books in our library.

  49. I am always looking for books that will be engaging for my students. I was unfamiliar with this series, but excited to check them out.

  50. I was not familiar with this book but plan to read it over the summer and use it with my fifth grade students next year. I teach a lot of African American girls with spirit and am sure I will see them in your character. Also your comments have inspired me to start writing which is something I have wanted to do for a long long time. Thanks.

  51. This book will be great for my students. They really enjoy when they can experience books from their own cultures.

  52. At the beginning of the school year, my third grade students tend to lack knowledge of diverse cultures, even within the United States. I would love to share this with them.

  53. I teach Special Education in an inner city school. Our student population is composed of your typical inner city child; very poor, single moms, lots of drama and very transient. Our students daily live with gangs and all that goes with it. They often express how helpless they feel towards what happens in their lives. I think your books will help them see there is hope. Your characters seem to learn and grow from their environment. I think they would make good examples for what having faith and perserverence can bring about.

  54. I am always looking for high interest books for my students in my schools. Like to check them out for my students.

  55. I loved the book based on one of my student’s retelling the story. She read read the book during her spring break. Everyone enjoyed the book.

  56. I read Sugar and thought it was very good. I recommended it to my fourth grade classes. We also have the same last name!

  57. I am a third grade teacher and these books look like they would be interesting to my students. I was not familiar with this author before seeing this email and I would like to get a couple of the books for my students to read.

  58. I teach a group of fourth grade who love reading! We have book talks and get really into each book that we read. These books sound great 🙂

  59. I try to introduce my students to new authors and genres, many of which hate reading. Since I teach in a school that is comprised of 97% African American students, they can connect to this character. I love being able to introduce things to my students to spark an interest in and make them want to read. I would love to add these books to the readily available library I have for them.

  60. I am excited to introduce Jewell’s books to my students because she will be visiting our school this fall! Our students and staff are looking forward to meeting her and hearing more about her books.

  61. I like providing books with strong female images. I also like providing my students with books that expose them to other cultures & customs.

  62. I would love to win these books to add to my classroom library. I teach special needs students and these would be great to use with ELA & Social Studies.

  63. Looking forward to reading Bayou Magic to my class this fall many of my students spend the summer visiting family members and this looks like a great back to school read.

  64. I teach a multi grade self inclusion classroom with children that have emotional issues. I would love to read a copy to the class and challenge them to write a response to the book.

  65. I teach a multi grade K-4 self contained unit for children that have emotional issues such as ADD/ADH, anger issues etc. I think the book would be great to read and challenge to write and their own story.

  66. I love to bring literature that highlights different cultures into the classroom. My children would love these books!

  67. I met the authors years ago when she published her first novel. I have a Girl Scout Troop and I would love for Ms. Parker Rhodes to meet them. I want to read the books and pass it along to the girls.

  68. I am constantly looking for diverse books for my students to read. To see themselves or someone that reminds them of their possibilities would be awesome!

  69. Maddy seems like the kind of girl that would be great to know, whether in a book or in real life. This book would take my students into a magical, adventurous, yet familiar place all while learning about bravery and passion. It doesn’t hurt that Ms. Rhodes is an amazing author!

  70. These books will take many students on exciting adventures and offer them the opportunity to explore places that they may never see..

  71. Any time I see a book about a bayou, my eyes perk up! I am a reading teacher in northern Louisiana, whose class theme is “Cajuns”. I love everything Cajun/bayou themed! My students would absolutely love to read and “get lost” in bayou/Louisiana adventures. Books take us to so many places we will never actually get to visit. This is one way my students can actually visit a swamp in their native Louisiana.

  72. I would love to win this book and make it my first read aloud of the new school year! I teach reading and writing. I am always looking for a new way to hook my readers in a great book.

  73. It’s wonderful to read about a young girl of color that all girls can relate to. While their environments may differ from each other–emotions do not. All of my 3rd grade girls will want to read more and more.

  74. I think my students would love to read this book. I have Ninth Ward and they loved it. Since I read to them daily, this seems like the perfect adventure to teach about this a bonus of an actual place that they may one day visit.

  75. I would love to receive a copy of Bayou Magic to share with my students. I am always looking for ways to help my students connect to real world events through literature.

  76. This looks like it would serve as a great resource to allow students to go on an adventure through reading.

  77. I was so excited to read about your latest book. I live in Mississippi now but was born and raised in Louisiana. It is amazing how the landscape changes from flat cotton fields to mysterious bayou’s or as they say “byo.” Even though I teach K-2, my students enjoy me reading chapter books to them.

  78. This book will further my students’ knowledge and understanding of cultures and regions beyond what they are used to! (A goal I am always attempting to keep at the very top of my educational priority list…) 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *