Sunday, June 10, 2012

Children's book tells all the things you never knew about Jean Laffite

            I’ll bet you thought you knew everything about Jean Laffite. Did you know the pirate was Jewish, spelled his name with two f’s as opposed to two t’s and lived out his life in exile in St. Louis?
            There is a school of thought that Jean headed to Missouri where he lived under a fake name, married and had children and asked that his memoirs be published after 107 years. Susan Goldman Rubin tells this version in the children’s picture book, “Jean Laffite: The Pirate Who Saved America.”
            Illustrated by Jeff Himmelman, the book begins with Laffite’s childhood in Port-au-Prince, then part of Saint Domingue and a colony of France, now known as Haiti. Young Laffite admires his pirating older brother Alexander and follows in his footsteps, despising Spain for its brutal treatment of Jews during the Spanish Inquisition. Naturally, the Laffite brothers pillage Spanish ships.
            When Jean is captured by a Spanish man-of-war, he and his family are left to die on an island where they were later rescued by Americans and brought to New Orleans. This experience, Rubin claims, makes Jean loyal to Americans.
            The rest is more familiar to Louisianans, Laffite first being hounded by then Louisiana Gov. Claiborne, selling smuggled slaves to Louisiana residents against U.S. law and hiding out in Barataria Bay. When the English set out to attack New Orleans, Laffite spreads the word and is eventually recruited by Andrew Jackson and the pair help win the famous Battle of New Orleans.
            Rubin concludes the book with a lengthy author’s note, describing Laffite’s later years and his little-known memoir.
            Theresa N. Singleton of Lafayette has published a charming children’s book titled “Zydeco Zoom,” in which a young boy named Zerick plays his accordion in front of an audience for the first time. Illustrated by L. Foote, the book also includes the song, “Zydeco Zoom” and definitions of zydeco and other unique attributes of Louisiana in the forword. Singleton will read “Zydeco Zoom,” along with her previous book, “Grandfather Lee and the Bees,” at 9 a.m. Wednesday, June 13, at the St. Martinville Branch Library and later Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the Breaux Bridge Branch Library and 2 p.m. at the Cecilia Branch Library. She will also be at the Thensted Outreach Center as part of the Thensted Summer Renaissance Program from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Thursday, June 21, in Grand Coteau.
            Just in time for peach season out of Ruston, Pelican Publishing has released the “Giant Peach Yodel!” picture book for children, written by Jan Peck and illustrated by Barry Root. The book follows a family on their way to a peach festival and each time they pass a field, Little Buddy Earl yodels and makes the crops grow faster. His mom doesn’t think there’s much use for yodeling until Little Buddy Earl fattens up the peaches, resulting in one giant peach.
            Joanne Aamodt of Minnesota has written a children’s picture book about a loon who travels from the warm waters of Louisiana to the spring lakes up north in “Claire, the Loon” (AuthorHouse). The book geared for ages 4 to 8 plays off Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune.”
            “Minette’s Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat” by Susanna Reich tells the story of gourmand Child and her determination to learn French cooking while in Paris through her experience adopting “a mischievous, energetic poussiequette” named Minette, who prefers mice to anything gourmet. It’s a charming exploration of the famous chef, accented by adorable illustrations by award winner Amy Bates, with a fun biography in the afterword.
Book awards
            Christa Allen’s sophomore novel, “The Edge of Grace,” received the Selah Award for first place in Contemporary Fiction at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference in Ridgecrest, North Carolina. Allen recently moved from Abita Springs to New Orleans.
             Covington’s O’Neil De Noux received the 2011 Police Book of the Year award for his novel, “John Raven Beau,” published by Big Kiss Productions of New Orleans. De Noux is a police investigator for Southeastern Louisiana University and has written 10 novels and eight short story collections.
Book events
            Casa Azul Gifts hosts an oral history presentation with Grand Coteau native Joseph “Bay” Brooks and New Orleans author Constance Adler at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 14, at the store in Grand Coteau. Brooks owned his own auto repair garage for 35 years and he will share stories of growing up and living in Grand Coteau. His presentation will be filmed by documentary filmmaker Chere Breaux. Adler teaches a creative writing workshop and writes a blog, “Emily Every Day.” Her writing has appeared in Spy Magazine, Utne Reader, Self, Cable Guide, Baltimore Magazine, Philadelphia Magazine, Oxford American and Gambit New Orleans. Adler’s first book, “My Bayou,” is a memoir that takes place in New Orleans. Bring your own poems, songs or stories for the open mic that follows. This free, community event is appropriate for all ages. For more information call (337) 662-1032 or email
            “The Complete Women of William Shakespeare” will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 15 and 16, and 2 p.m. Sunday, June 17, at Theatre 810 in downtown 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