Sunday, November 26, 2017

Children's books make great holiday gifts!

The holiday season is upon us and if you’re looking for some children’s book recommendations, here are a few with Louisiana connections.

Pelican Publishing
Pelican of New Orleans has several children’s titles out this fall.

Rhonda Lynn Rucker and her husband James “Sparky” Rucker have penned a soulful book about the Civil Rights Movement that gently explains segregation to young readers in “Make a Change,” illustrated by Brock Nicol. Young Marvin attends the grand opening of Rich’s department store in 1960 Knoxville, Tenn., only to find that its lunch counter won’t allow him access. African Americans gather in church to organize a boycott and decide instead to pray in front of the store. Much to Marvin’s surprise, the grandson of the store’s owner joins him. The Ruckers have won numerous awards for their activist work and their precious book, “Swing Low, Sweet Harriet.”

Children’s book author and performer Johnette Downing, winner of this year’s Louisiana Writer Award, takes on the Cajun Mardi Gras with “Mumbo, Jumbo, Stay Out of the Gumbo,” illustrated by Jennifer Lindsley. Readers will learn about the Cajun courirs, enjoy French words and laugh at the rooster who warns the animals of the Cajun prairie to stay out of gumbo to be cooked on Mardi Gras Day. As the author states in the Author’s Note, “I root for the chicken!”

Nancy Allen takes readers to the country this holiday season with “A Down-Home Twelve Days of Christmas,” illustrated by Apryl Scott. Instead of five golden rings, there’s five razorbacks. On the ninth day, it’s nine bluegrass pickers. You get the idea. What makes the book unique are the letters attached to each day, like the bills from Walmart and the citations from the sanitation department. Cyndi Lou gets pretty aggravated with Billy Ray and ends up dating one of the 10 Nascar drivers while Memaw takes the menagerie and hunts Billy Ray down. It’s all in good fun and will naturally bring a laugh to the old song.

Louisiana author Dianne de Las Casas and illustrator Marita Gentry return with the Cajun cornbread boy, this time with company in “The Cajun Cornbread Boy and the Buttermilk Biscuit Girl.”

If you’re in Baton Rouge, Melissa Maloney Wallace has published a coloring book just for Capitol City kids, “It’s Great to be a Baton Rouge Kid.”

UL Press
Paul Schexnayder of New Iberia created a painting of a Trojan horse, a king and a blue monkey and pondered their story while it hung on his wall. The result is the whimsical In the Time of Joy and Wonder, which celebrates the discovery of a tree seedling that grows into a live oak tree with the care of the three explorers. It reads like the tale continues. Lets hope so.

Denise Gallagher of Lafayette, who has illustrated books and worked with designers and advertisers, has produced her own story with A Tip Tap Tale, the adorable story of BouZou, a hound dog who loves to perform in the swamps of Louisiana. BouZou makes it big and travels to New Orleans but he never forgets his roots.

Both books are published by the University of Louisiana-Lafayette Press. You can meet the authors at the Press’ “Art of Giving” sale from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday at the UL Alumni Center in Lafayette. In addition to Gallagher and Schexnayder will be Philip Gould and John Slaughter.

William Joyce
William Joyce, Shreveport award-winning author, illustrator and filmmaker, returns with TV robot character Rolie Polie Olie, who wishes his world would turn snowy, in “Snowie Rolie.” Because he lives in a sunny climate, he must take a rocket trip to Chillsville, a cool world filled with frosty friends, even Klanky Klaus. Joyce has also reissued “Santa Calls,” where three children head to the North Pole to help Santa defeat an army of evil elves. The new version includes lift-the-flap letters from Santa.

Other new releases
Author Rickey Pittman and illustrator Alexis Braud offer a unique “Cajun ABC” that’s as much a travel guide to Cajun Country as a fun way to learn the alphabet. Each letter emphasizes items indigenous to South Louisiana, from personalities Michael Doucet and Chef John Folse to French immersion, fried turkeys and Evangeline. Kids will have a ball perusing this book and its local illustrations. Storyteller Pittman is known as “The Bard of the South” and Braud hails from Acadiana, a graduate of Nicholls. The book is published by River Road Press of New Orleans, which began in 2014 to publish children’s books, history, Southern culture and food.
Candlewick Press has produced an astonishing line of oversized childrens books designed to engage young readers with science and social studies. The previous books in the series include Animalium, Dinosaurium and Historium. New this fall is Botanicum by Kathy Willis, beautifully illustrated by Katie Scott. The book explains plants in their many categories, including the first plants, trees, palm and cycads, herbaceous plants, grasses, bromeliads and those that adapt to environments. Designed for ages 8-12 and perfect for home and school libraries, children will love spending time dissecting these plants and the scientific-style artwork accompanying them.

Bayou Santa
We published this review in a previous blog post but here goes again:
There have been lots of Louisiana takes on holiday classics and fairy tales but Leif Nedland Pederson’s “Bayou Santa” offers a unique perspective. The story centers on Noel Robicheaux, who loves living with his wife on a sleepy South Louisiana bayou. They plie their pirogue through the waterways admiring wildlife and scenery and by night Noel crafts small toys for the area children, little duck decoys in bright colors that he gives out at the Christmas fais-do-do. The bayou children adore the couple and before Christmas they all build bonfires to light the way for Santa’s arrival. Santa Claus notices the love Noel gives to his toys and the neighborhood children. Since traveling through the swamps is difficult at best for Kris Kringle, he asks Noel for help. Noel agrees and helps Santa deliver toys in his pirogue with alligators leading the way. It’s a heartfelt story with gorgeous illustrations by Mickey Asche of Mandeville. The sweet tale that emphasizes both the love spread at Christmas and the ties we have to the land is sure to become a Christmas favorite. Pedersen is a New Orleans native who now divides his time between Slidell and Lake Charles, where he serves as senior vice-president of philanthropy at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital Foundation. He is the author of the children’s book series, “The Adventures of the Swamp Kids.”

Book events
Stella Barcelona signs Concierge: A Black Raven at 6 p.m. Thursday at Garden District Book Shop of New Orleans.

A panel discussion titled "New Orleans and the World, 1718-2018" with Nancy Dixon, Jack Davis, Freddi Evans and Alison Fensterstock will begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Octavia Books of New Orleans.

The Louise Williams branch of the Ouachita Parish Library will hold an open house from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Kim Sunee and Seung Hee Lee will discuss “Everyday Korean: Fresh, Modern Recipes for Home Cooks” from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Ancora, 4508 Freret St. in New Orleans.

University of Louisiana-Lafayette Press authors and staff members will host an “Art of Giving” sale from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday at the UL Alumni Center in Lafayette. Denise Gallagher, Philip Gould, Paul Schexnayder and John Slaughter will be on hand to autograph their publications.

Louisiana Book News is written by Chere Dastugue Coen who writes novels under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Her series all begin with a book that's available as a FREE download. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Get ready for the 2018 New Orleans Tricentennial with 'New Orleans: The First 300 Years'

New Orleans celebrates its 300th birthday next year and 22 authors discuss what that means in “New Orleans: The First 300 Years” by Errol Laborde and Peggy Scott Laborde as editors with a foreword by historian Lawrence Powell, professor emeritus in Tulane’s history department. The book is a joint venture between New Orleans public television station WYES and Pelican Publishing with the support of the Historic New Orleans Collection. Topics include the city’s food and musical heritage, natural disasters, the influx of ethnic groups, famous authors, media and much more. Errol Laborde is editor of New Orleans Magazine and the founding president and current board member of the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival. Peggy Scott Laborde is the producer and host of WYES’s “Steppin’ Out” show and an author.

Book events
Walter Isaacson signs his latest book, “Leonardo da Vinci,” at 7 p.m. Monday at Newman School’s Henson Auditorium and at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Jewish Community Center, both in New Orleans. Isaacson, a professor of history at Tulane, has been CEO of the Aspen Institute, chairman of CNN and editor of Time magazine. He is the author of “The Innovators,” “Steve Jobs,” “Einstein: His Life and Universe,” “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life” and “Kissinger: A Biography.” He is the coauthor of “The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made.”

Alysson Foti Bourque will sign copies of her award-winning "Alycat" children's series at 11 a.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble Lafayette. Every book purchase receives a free Alycat plush toy. She will also be selling and signing books at 4 p.m. tonight at Chicorys Coffee & Cafe in Grand Coteau. She will also sign copies of her series at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1, at The Cajun Collective Author Signing during Lafayette's Festival of Lights.

Feng Shui Master Denise DuBos, author of “Feng Shui: the Invisible Art of Communication,” will teach the basics of this Chinese philosophical system of harmonizing oneself with the environment at 6:30 p.m. Monday, at Bluebonnet Regional. 

Louisiana Book News is written by Chere Dastugue Coen who writes novels under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Her series all begin with a book that's available as a FREE download. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Festival of Words winners announced

Congratulations to students who placed in the 2017 Festival of Words Youth Creative Writing Contest. They are:

1st: "Achieve" by Ethan Landes, 5th grade, Berchman’s Academy

1st: "Light and Shadow in the War of Age" by Mason Darby, 5th grade, Berchman’s Academy

1st  "March to the Sea" by Rani Meaux, 8th grade, North Vermilion Middle School
2nd:  "Our Universe" by Brooklyn Orr, 7th grade, North Vermilion Middle School
3rd:  "Leaves" by Candence Tucker, 8th grade, L.J. Alleman Middle School

1st  "The Bad" by Blair Saltzman, 8th grade, North Vermilion Middle School
2nd:  "Samel” by Kristos Guillory, 8th grade, North Vermilion Middle School
3rd:  "Rein’s Foolishness”, by Mya Gerard, 8th grade, Broussard Middle School
4th  "Dream Journals and Reality,” by Madison Trahan, 7th grade, North Vermilion Middle School

1st: "Bookworm" by Cameron Choate, 10th grade, Lafayette High
2nd: “Something Somewhere Fell” by Alex Malcombe, 11th grade, Lafayette High School
3rd:  "The Day that I Felt Nothing,” by Aalayah Richard, 12th grade, Carencro High School

1st: "Victim,” by Victoria Matte, 10th grade, Lafayette High School
2nd: "I Want to Join,” by Gavin Novasad, 10th grade, Lafayette High School
3rd:  "Breakthrough,” by Kyley Prejean, 9th grade, Carencro High School


The Acadiana Writing Project partners with Festival of Words every year to sponsor the Festival of Words Youth Writing Contest. Hundreds of students in grades 3-12 from across Acadiana submitted poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction pieces. All submissions were anonymous, for blind judging. Winners were honored at The Thensted Center on Saturday, Nov. 4. For more information about the Festival of Words, visit  http//

Louisiana Book News is written by Chere Dastugue Coen who writes novels under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Her series all begin with a book that's available as a FREE download. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tuesday Ebook Spotlight: Holiday reading

Ready to get romantic for the holidays? “Romancing the Holidays,” a 12-book box set that’s only 99 cents to download, includes stories by authors Crista McHugh, Jami Davenport, Kathi Daley, Misty Evans/Adrienne Giordano, Allie Boniface, Rebecca J. Clark, Kim Hornsby, Tess Thompson, Savanna Grey, Jacki Delecki, Carmine Valentine and Louisiana’s own Lori Leger.

Best of all, proceeds from the set will be donated to breast cancer awareness.

Purchase the box set at
Amazon or B&N

Want more books to get in the Christmas spirit? 

There are 59 fantastic books to choose from in the Romance for the Holidays Giveaway, many books holiday-themed and mysteries, including 27 that are either FREE or 99 cents.

And today (Nov. 14), there’s a bonus giveaway! We’re talking Kindles and ebook prizes, seven lucky winners in all.

Louisiana Book News is written by Chere Dastugue Coen who writes novels under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Her series all begin with a book that's available as a FREE download. Her Viola Valentine paranormal mystery is also part of the Romance for the Holidays Giveaway.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Donna Brazile visiting LSU to discuss 'Hacks'

Donna Brazile, a Louisiana native who worked as a political strategist, including during the 2016 Hilary campaign, will discuss her recent book, “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that put Donald Trump in the White House” at 5:30 p.m. Friday in Hill Memorial Library on the LSU campus. The book details the aftermath of the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Convention, the resignation of party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the final months of the 2016 campaign. Brazile is currently a Joan Shorenstein fellow at The Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Brazile is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and a contributor to ABC News. She has served twice as interim chair of the Democratic National Committee. A graduate of LSU, Brazile worked on every presidential campaign from 1976 through 2000, when she served as Al Gore’s campaign manager. In 2014, Brazile donated her papers to LSU Libraries Special Collections. This book talk is free and open to the public.

Letters contest
The Letters About Literature program kicks off its 25th annual competition, run by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. The program invites readers in grades four through 12 to share letters they have written to authors whose books affected them. For more information about the contest, including instructions for entering and deadlines for each state, and to register for the webinar, visit

Spell-a-bration 2017
The Lafayette Public Library Foundation hosts its annual Spell-a-bration adult spelling bee where teams of three will compete for prizes at 6 p.m. tonight. Participants who attend the fundraiser will also be treated to cuisine from local restaurants and an open bar. All proceeds raised from Spell-a- bration go to purchase books for Lafayette Reads Together, a program created to encourage community involvement to increase literacy. To purchase tickets, visit the Lafayette Public Library Foundation’s Facebook page.

New releases
The Southern Review, a literary magazine founded in 1935 at LSU, has published its autumn issue and includes National Book Award finalist Bonnie Jo Campbell and Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Philip Schultz, as well as emerging writers. The issue also features the collaged paintings of Jesse McCloskey, a contemporary artist based in New York City. The autumn issue is now available for purchase online at

Kirkus Prize
Jack E. Davis has won the 2017 Kirkus Prize for “The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea,” an environmental history of the Gulf of Mexico that considers the ravages of nature and man. The book joins Cherie Dimaline’s “The Marrow Thieves” and Lesley Nneka Arimah’s “What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky.”

Book events the week of Nov. 12-18
LaJoanoune M. Lathan will read from her book of poetry, Inspirations from the Holy Spirit,” at 3 p.m. today at Jones Creek Library of Baton Rouge.

D.A. Field, author of “Blood Memory Society,” will sign copies at 6 p.m. Thursday at Garden District Book Shop of New Orleans. Also through the bookstore is Isabel Allende, author of “In the Midst of Winter,” in conversation with Anne Gisleson at 6 p.m. Friday at The Academy of Sacred Heart, 4521 St. Charles Ave in New Orleans. The latter event requires a ticket.

Brett Abrams reads from and signs “Terry Bradshaw: From Super Bowl Champion to Television Personality” at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum in Natchitoches.

Dixie Poché signs copies of “Louisiana Sweets: King Cakes, Bread Pudding and Sweet Dough Pie” from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the 1850 House Museum Store, 523 St. Ann St. in New Orleans.

Louisiana author Lisa Poche Calhoun will discuss her new novel, “Superflare: The Fortunate One,” at 2 p.m. Saturday at Jones Creek Library of Baton Rouge. A book signing and reception will follow her presentation.

 The 2017 International Conference on World War II will be Thursday through Saturday at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

Andrea Brew will sign copies of “Twas the Night Before Bayou Classic” at 11 a.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble Perkins Rowe in Baton Rouge.

Chere Coen is the author of several Louisiana non-fiction books and the “Viola Valentine” Louisiana paranormal mystery series under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Write her at

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Ladee Hubbard wins 2017 Ernest Gaines Award

Photo credit: Vilma Samulionyte
New Orleans writer Ladee Hubbard’s novel, “The Talented Ribkins,” has been named winner of the 2017 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. 

Now in its 11th year, the Gaines Award is a nationally acclaimed $10,000 prize given annually by Baton Rouge Area Foundation donors to recognize outstanding work from rising African-American fiction writers, while honoring Louisiana native Ernest Gaines’ extraordinary contribution to the literary world. The award will be presented to Hubbard at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 18 at the Manship Theatre at the Shaw Center for the Arts in downtown Baton Rouge. Doors open at 6 p.m. The ceremony is free and open to the public, although reservations are requested at

“The Talented Ribkins” is Hubbard’s first novel. It was inspired by the essay “The Talented Tenth,” written in 1903 by civil rights sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois, calling for exceptional men to step up to help save their race. “The Talented Ribkins” follows Johnny Ribkins and his family who are on a race to dig up stolen money stashed all over Florida before Johnny’s former mobster boss finds him. Luckily, Johnny’s family holds unusual superpowers that help him in his search although the superpowers get in the way from time to time. The novel incorporates race, class and politics, and the unique gifts that bind the Ribkins family together.

Hubbard earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, a master’s of fine arts in dramatic writing from New York University and a master’s of fine arts in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin. She earned a Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles. While attending Princeton, she was mentored by Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison. Hubbard is a professor of African studies at Tulane University.

The national panel of judges for the 2017 Gaines Award are: Edward P. Jones, Pulitzer Prize winner for his 2003 novel, “The Known World”; Anthony Grooms, a critically acclaimed author and creative writing professor at Kennesaw State University; renowned author Elizabeth Nunez, professor of English at Hunter College-City University of New York; Francine Prose, author of more than 20 books, including “Blue Angel,” a nominee for the 2000 National Book Award; and Patricia Towers, former features editor for O, The Oprah Magazine and a founding editor of Vanity Fair magazine.

Due to the exceptional quality of entries, judges for the Gaines Award short-listed three books for commendation this year – “New People,” by Danzy Senna, “What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky” by Lesley Nneka Arimah and “What We Lose” by Zinzi Clemmons.

Previous winners of the Ernest J. Gaines award include Crystal Wilkinson for “Birds of Opulence,” T. Geronimo Johnson for “Welcome to Braggsville,” Attica Locke for “The Cutting Season,” Stephanie Powell Watts for “We Are Taking Only What We Need” and Dinaw Mengestu for “How to Read the Air.”

Louisiana Book News is written by journalist Chere Dastugue Coen, who writes Louisiana romances and paranormal mysteries under the pen name of Cherie Claire. The first books in her award-winning series are FREE as ebooks! For more information and to sign up for her newsletter visit