Evangeline of the Bayou

Book review by
Kyle Jackson, Common Sense Media
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Exciting thrills and chills in mysterious supernatural tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Great introduction to Louisiana culture and all sorts of mythical folklore, including a glossary at the end describing the "monsters, ghosts, and assorted supernatural entities."

Positive Messages

"Trust your gut," "fear is a steel trap," "when you see others in need, you help them, even if it means a risk to yourself," and "determination leads to celebration" are some of the many bits of wisdom Evangeline learns from her Gran.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Evangeline and her Gran are both shining examples of bravery, selflessness, perceptiveness, and intuition. Even the socially awkward, seemingly selfish braniac Julian turns out to be more noble than he appears.

Violence & Scariness

Several intense, scary battles with monsters and mythical beasts, some of which result in death or serious injury, similar to a Harry Potter book.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Jan Eldredge's Evangeline of the Bayou is an intense, magic-filled thriller about a young "haunt huntress" apprentice in Louisiana learning from her grandmother how to fight monsters, ghouls, and ghosts. There are scary battles with creepy creatures that resemble some of the violent moments of a Harry Potter book, but it's a fun-filled page-turner for tweens that adults can enjoy, too. 

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What's the story?

EVANGELINE OF THE BAYOU follows a 12-year-old haunt-huntress-in-training who travels from the swampy bayou of rural Louisiana to the bustling city of New Orleans to solve a special supernatural case. Orphaned at birth and raised by her "swamp witch" (as skeptics call haunt huntresses) Gran, Evangeline isn't sure if she has the true powers she'll need to be confirmed as an official haunt huntress by the mysterious council that oversees the mystical order. However, she knows that if she doesn't find her "familiar" (a sort of spirit animal bonded for life to the haunt huntress) by the time she turns 13, she will have proven to be just a "middling," or someone without true magical abilities. All the same, she tirelessly works to learn the traditions and arcane arts that will let her exorcise demons, exhume ghosts, and battle vicious beasts like grims (gigantic dogs that serve as omens for death, like a canine grim reaper), shadow creepers, and the nearly unstoppable rougarous (swamp werewolves). Battling these dangerous monsters, as well as her own self-doubt and fear of losing her aging Gran, Evangeline faces her hardest trial yet when apprentice and master are called to the big city for a very important mission to protect a strange family in an old mansion where not everyone is who they appear to be.

Is it any good?

Filled with tons of Cajun flavor and local Louisiana lore, this incredibly well-written novel is equal parts heart-pounding and heartfelt. First-time author Jan Eldredge provides twists and turns that keep you guessing, big reveals that upend expectations, and an epic climax that gives J.K. Rowling a run for her money. All throughout, Evangeline and her Gran are compelling, likable characters with a ton of courage and a true devotion to helping people. And Joseph Kuefler's  illustrations add intrigue and atmosphere, and help break up the text for kids still new to chapter books.  

Anyone familiar with Louisiana or New Orleans will get a real kick out of the references to the culture, including major plot points involving beignets, jambalaya, Mardi Gras traditions, voodoo temples, and a whole lot more. For fans of books involving magic and mystery, this one is not to be missed.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about mythical folklore and stories of magic and voodoo. Why do you think these types of tales continue to inspire and excite people, as they always have?

  • What do you know about Louisiana culture and history? Did the book teach you anything about this very unique state?

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