Tuesday, April 06, 2010


Bayou Suzette, Lois Lenski, Frederick A Stokes Co, 1943, 208 pp

Bayou Suzette is the first in Lois Lenski's American Regional Series. Between 1943 and 1968, she wrote 17 books for readers aged 8-12, covering many of the major regions of the United States. Her purpose was to tell children how other children lived in various areas of the country. In today's world of cookie cutter towns with all the same eateries and shops, Lenski's books give the flavor and essence of regions in our country when they were unique only 60 years ago. (Link to her bibliography.)

Suzette is the irrepressible daughter of a large Creole family living in a small town amid the Mississippi Delta. When the story opens, her father is bedridden from a gunshot wound that failed to heal after a shooting competition. All the children in the family contribute to keep money and food coming in. Suzette's job is fishing.

Eventually she meets and brings home an orphaned Indian girl named Marteel. Indians (which is what they were called in the 1940s, not Native Americans) were considered the lowest class of people in the Delta: dirty, untrustworthy and even dangerous. But Suzette's big-hearted though tough-minded Maman is eventually won over, especially after Marteel helps the family in important ways.

The Creole community is rambunctious and somewhat wild with family feuds, feasting days and hard times that include the flooding of the Mississippi. Lenski's children are not goody-goody or examples of correct behavior. Suzette has plenty of strong willed gumption which alternates between adventure and defiance.

I was captivated on every page of this lively story.

(Bayou Suzette is out of print, so you would need to check your local library or used book sellers.)

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