In 1930s Mississippi, the swamps house an alternate world of bad juju, strange forces, and stranger critters—like giant Cotton-Eyed Joe, who gobbles up Lee's best friend, Lily, Miss Westmoreland's daughter. When the sheriff hauls in Lee's sharecropper daddy for Lily's murder and a lynching party is on the move, Lee's only hope to rescue both daddy and Lily is the equally gigantic Bayou, another swamp critter and Joe's opposite number. But Bayou operates under the thumb, er, paw of bossman Jubal, a bloodhound gotten up as a Civil War general with Klan-type sidekicks. Love's Southern gothic magical realism infuses the plot with seductive frisson, even if the symbolism gets a bit heavy-handed. Certainly, Lee's no cringing little girlie, and she kicks and shoots like the best manga heroines. The graceful and semirealistic drawings are enhanced by Patrick Morgan's lush coloring, in a muted earth-toned palette. VERDICTBayou swept the 2009 Glyph Awards, and its blend of history, racial issues, beautifully drawn fantasy, and appealing story will attract fans in high school and public libraries. Teens and up.—M.C.