Monday, December 5, 2011

New Orleans Saints to Cajun Country, Louisiana kids books run gamut

Looking for some gift ideas for the younger set? Here are a few children’s titles penned by Louisiana authors or concerning Louisiana stories.
Lovers of the New Orleans Saints and the city itself will enjoy Todd-Michael St. Pierre’s fun “Who Dat Night Before Christmas,” illustrated by Keith Douglas and published as a bilingual book in both English and French by Piggy Press Books. Santa arrives dressed in gold and black, his sleigh pulled by pelicans with names such as Momus, Zulu and Flambeaux. He comes down the chimney in K&B purple boots and a fleur-de-lis on his breast, enjoying a poboy and Barq’s before laying out gifts. St. Pierre has penned a delightful new Christmas tale with a Who Dat twist.
Lynda Deniger of Louisiana, along with illustrator Paulette Ferguson, have published a children’s book to explain the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Titled “Patti Pelican and the Gulf Oil Spill,” the book uses the disaster to explain the importance of taking care of the environment.
Michelle Carley Loup of Baton Rouge and 10-year-old daughter Chloe Loup has teamed up for a book that focuses on bullying. Titled “Nate the Naughty Gnat,” the book follows Nate who is always in trouble at home and at school.  Mr. Crusty, an old cockroach who is the school janitor, tries to help Nate learn how to be kind to others and that bullying hurts.
Monsiur Durand was a wealthy plantation owner in St. Martinville who spared no expense on his daughter’s wedding. The extravagant affair he created is the basis for Rose Anne St. Romain’s latest children’s book, “Monsieur Durand's Grosse Affaire,” published by Pelican Publishing. I won’t spoil the ending and reveal to what extent Durand goes to make the wedding over the top, but it’s a wonderful read that pays off well in the end. St. Romain is a professional storyteller and director of the 4-H Museum in Marksville. The book is illustrated by Joan C. Waites, who also worked with St. Romain on “Moon’s Cloud Blanket.”
Other children’s books out now by Pelican Publishing include:
“Six Foolish Fishermen” by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Doug Kennedy, involving six foolish friends in a pirogue who make a host of silly decisions. Louisiana residents may recognize many of these fun folktales, and will enjoy a good laugh.
Johnette Downing of New Orleans explains the origin of pearls in “Why the Oyster has the Pearl,” illustrated by Bethanne Hill. In Downing’s story, the oyster is the keeper of the world’s jewels until sly snake comes along, a good lesson in greed and the virtues of generosity.
The poor mosquito doesn’t have many friends in Virginia Kroll’s “Mosquito,” illustrated by Betsy LaPlatt. As he flies around, all the animals are not happy to see him — and rightly so. The book also includes a list of mosquito facts.
New Orleans storyteller Dianne de Las Casas explains with Aztec and Mayan folklore how chocolate came to Earth from the heavens in “Blue Frog: the Legend of Chocolate,” illustrated by Holly Stone-Barker. The book was inspired by Blue Frog Chocolates of New Orleans, which is also named after South American legends. In the back is a recipe for Mexican hot cocoa.
Carole Gerber explains the story of an American woman who developed a system of classifying stars in “Annie Jump Cannon, Astronomer,” with illustrations by Christina Wald. Cannon still holds the record for identifying more stars than anyone else in the world.
Replacing rats with alligators and nutrias is “The Cajun Nutcracker” by Chara Dillon Mock, illustrated by Jean Cassels. The star of the show is still a nutcracker, but the locale is South Louisiana with its swamps, fireflies, Sugarcane Fairy, cayenne peppers from Avery Island and the waltz of the magnolias.

New releases
            Kody Chamberlain, a native of Thibodaux now living in Lafayette, has published a new comic titled “Sweets: A New Orleans Crime Story.” The tale follows Detective Curt Delatte, who has just buried his only daughter and is forced to chase a spree killer days before Hurricane Katrina makes landfall. Newsarama said of Chamberlain’s work: “This kind of care and craftsmanship isn’t just art it’s magic.”
UL Press has released “Louisiana Folktales: Lupin, Bouki, and Other Creole Stories in French Dialect and English Translation,” the first complete anthology of the folktales collected by linguist/historian Alceé Fortier. The book includes facsimiles of the original 1985 edition of “Louisiana Folktales,” and each selection is rendered in Creole French and English translation and includes Fortier’s original notes.
Tulane University professor Melissa V. Harris-Perry, where she is founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South, has written an examination of race and gender in “Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America.” Readers may also recognize Harris-Perry from her regular appearances on MSNBC. “She assays the political implications and consequences of these archetypes in the lives of contemporary black women — and for how they influences black women’s participation in American public life, finding that they enjoy a less than complete citizenship…” wrote Publisher’s Weekly of the book.
And now a plug for my cousin who’s an outstanding scholar. Waights Taylor Jr., who grew up in Birmingham and experienced the extreme social change brought about by the Civil Rights Movement, has published “Our Southern Home: Scottsboro to Montgomery to Birmingham — The Transformation of the South in the Twentieth Century.” The book is available at or through and websites.

Book news
Derek Mosley, archivist and assistant director of the UL Ernest J. Gaines Center, has been named a 2012 Emerging Leader by the American Library Association (ALA). Mosley is one of 77 librarians selected for this six-month leadership development program and will attend the ALA Midwinter Meeting and the Annual Conference. Mosley’s goal is to be a mentor and role model for young African American men and to bring attention to librarianship as a career path.

Book events
            Cornell Landry reads “Le Petit Bonhomme Janvier” at 11 a.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble, 5707 Johnston St.
            I will be presenting a workshop titled “Get Your Mojo Working” in connection with my book “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets” at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Greenwell Springs Library in Baton Rouge.
James Nolan will read from and sign his novel “Higher Ground” at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Arts Council of New Orleans and at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Gold Mine Saloon in New Orleans.
The Historic New Orleans Collection will host authors from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at PhotoNOLA 2011 photography festival at the Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres St. in New Orleans. The event is free and open to the public. Featured photographers and their titles are Shannon Brinkman, “Preservation Hall;” Deborah Luster, “Tooth For an Eye;” Ashley Gilbertson, “Whisky Tango Foxtrot;” James A. Reeves, “The Road to Somewhere;” Joséphine Sacabo, “Pedro Páramo;” Jennifer Shaw, “Hurricane Story” and Mary Virginia Swanson, “Publish Your Photography Book.” Sacabo will also present an overview of her work from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Chef John Folse will sign copies of his cookbooks at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Barnes & Noble Perkins Rowe in Baton Rouge.
Carol Stubbs and Nancy Rust sign their cookbook “A Louisiana Christmas: Heritage Recipes and Hometown Celebrations” at 2 p.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble Lafayette.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at