Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Louisiana young adult novels bring history to life

             Teaching Louisiana history to tweens and young teens can be a daunting task. When it’s in the form of a young adult novel, odds improve considerably.
            Here are two young adult novels that bring Louisiana history to life through the eyes of young people.
            Stacy Demoran Allbritton is a New Orleans native now living in Monroe and long fascinated by Acadian and Louisiana history. She tells the story of the Acadian exile from Nova Scotia in a new young adult novel out from Pelican Publishing.
            “The Diary of Marie Landry, Acadian Exile” reads much like the American Girls novels, a diary penned by a young girl who is forced as a child from her home in the Canadian Maritimes in 1755. She and her Acadian family grow up in exile in Oxford, Maryland, separated from her father and brother.
            The book begins as Marie is preparing to sail to Louisiana with hope of a better life. While we read of her preparation to leave, she recounts what actions led to her family coming to Maryland — the British expulsion of the Acadians from their homeland and the displacement of these residents up and down the Eastern seaboard. She also explains the separation and reunion with her brother Normand, who had escaped to the Nova Scotia woods and the safety of the Micmac Native Americans, then traveled throughout the colonies until he found his family.
            Marie’s journey to Louisiana is long and difficult and the family eventually settles at St. Jacques de Cabonnocé, near present-day Donaldsonville, after spending time in New Orleans.
            The novel, with illustrations by Joyce Haynes, is well-researched and offers a lively narrative. Written on a sixth-grade reading level, “The Diary of Marie Landry” will be the perfect complement for the Louisiana history curriculum taught in public schools.
            Mary van Rheenen lived in Ebarb during the 1980s, conducting research on the Choctaw-Apache Tribe and collecting oral histories, stories and genealogy along with her “workpartner” Janet Shoemaker. These gems have been used to tell a sweet young adult story in “The Treasure Team.”
            Four children have heard the stories about buried treasure in the Toledo Bend area, and when one’s Uncle Tee Procell becomes ill with cancer, they decide to gather the stories and head out on the trail Uncle Tee swears will bring them fortune. Along the way, as they travel to places such as Zwolle and Ebarb in Sabine Parish, they learn about the area’s heritage, genealogy and oral history.
            “The Treasure Team” makes for engaging reading and tweens and teens will love the adventure. The charming story is based on Rheenen and Shoemaker’s works and is accented by real photographs and sketches. The cover art was created by Allen Ebarb, a student at Ebarb High School, and proceeds from the novel will help support the scholarship fund of the Choctaw-Apache Tribe of Ebarb.
            For more information, visit www.Treasure-Team.com.

New releases
            Best-selling romance author Kimberly Lang will help launch Harlequin’s KISS line with two books set in New Orleans and featuring the LaBlanc sisters (no, that’s not a misspelling of the name). “The Downfall of a Good Girl” will be released in February, followed in March with “The Taming of a Wild Child.” 
             New Orleans-based journalist Keith O’Brien has published his first book, “Outside Shot: Big Dreams, Hard Times, and One County’s Quest for Basketball Greatness,” about the Cardinals of Scott County High School in central Kentucky. The book chronicles a school with a strong basketball history that descended upon a two-year drought. The narrative follows four of the team’s top seniors and their coach as they struggle to redeem themselves in the face of impossible odds: once-loyal fans now turned against them, parents who demand athletic greatness and scouts who weigh their every move. O’Brien has written for The New York Times Magazine, The Boston Globe and National Public Radio. In 2009 he won the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.
            New Orleans children’s picture book author Cornell Landry (“Goodnight NOLA”) has published a Mardi Gras tale about a boy and his bead dog titled “The Amazing Adventure of Mardi Gras Bead Dog.”  

Tennessee Williams
            The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, now in its 27th year, has announced its lineup of scholars, writers and performers for the event to be held March 20-24 in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
            Some of the writers attending this year will be Michael Cunningham (“Home at the End of the World”), John Patrick Shanley (screenwriter of “Doubt,” “Moonstruck”), columnist Leonard Pitts, Douglas Brinkley (“Cronkite”), John Shelton Reed (“Dixie Bohemia: A French Quarter Circle in the 1920s”), Maureen Corrigan (“Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading”), John Jeremiah Sullivan (“Blood Horses”), Zachary Lazar (“Sway”) and Ayana Mathis, whose debut novel “The Twelve Tribes of Hattie” was recently selected by Oprah Winfrey for her Book Club 2.0.
            In addition there will be master classes for writers, theatrical performances, music, a scholar’s conference and the Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest. For more information, call (504) 581-1144 or visit www.tennesseewilliams.net.
            In festival news, the finalists and grand prizewinner of the third Annual Poetry Contest have been announced. The winning entry is Amie Whittemore for “Blackberry Season.” Whittemore’s poems will appear in Louisiana Cultural Vistas magazine, she’ll receice $1,000 and there will be a public reading at the festival.

Book news
            When The Hurricane Came” (CreateSpace) by Nechama Liss-Levinson was a finalist in the children’s and young adult literature division of the 2012 National Jewish Book Awards. The book begins as Hurricane Katrina is about to strike New Orleans and young Gertie and her family are forced to evacuate. As she spends the year in Memphis, going to a new school, making new friends and celebrating the Jewish holidays in someone else’s house, Gertie learns about loss and healing from from loss, about tzedakah and giving, and about what’s really important in life. “When The Hurricane Came” was also awarded the Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award by the Association of Jewish Libraries. Liss-Levinson volunteered in New Orleans after the storm.
             Now in paperback is Wiley Cash’s debut novel, “A Land More Kind Than Home.” Cash was one of the honored presenters at last year’s Louisiana Book Festival. For more information and a schedule of Cash’s appearances, visit http://www.wileycash.com. To read a review I wrote of his novel last year, visit http://louisianabooknews.blogspot.com/2012/07/wiley-cash.html.
            Pamela Thibodeau’s inspirational novel “The Visionary,” which is set in Lake Charles, was released in 2011 in hardcover but is now available on the Kindle.

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 chere@louisianabooknews.com.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Historic New Orleans Collection seeks 'Perspectives on Louisiana’s Natural History'

             The Historic New Orleans Collection’s 18th annual Williams Research Center Symposium will examine “Seeking the Unknown: Perspectives on Louisiana’s Natural History” on Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans.
            Scholars from Louisiana and abroad will discuss the state’s natural history, including faculty members from LSU, Louisiana Tech, McNeese, Tulane, the University of British Columbia and the University of Mississippi, as well as independent art historians and curators. Robert A. Thomas, director of the Loyola University Center for Environmental Communication, will serve as the symposium moderator.
            There will be sessions on pre-colonial American Indians, early naturalists, John James Audubon, and more. Registration is required and early registration rates range between $40 and $75 with rates increasing after Feb. 1. Fees include the full day of presentations plus a special preview of the companion exhibition, “Seeking the Unknown: Natural History Observations in Louisiana, 1698–1840,” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22. For more information, including a complete schedule of talks and links to online registration, visit www.hnoc.org/programs/symposia.html. 

            Moira Crone has been nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States for her latest book, "The Not Yet.” 
            Gerald Duff’s “Dirty Rice: A Season in the Evangeline League,” published by the UL Press, was named one of the 25 best fiction books of the year by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

New releases
            Michael S. Martin, director of the Center for Louisiana Studies at UL and Janet Allured, professor of history at McNeese State University and coordinator of its Women’s Studies program, have published “Louisiana Legacies: Readings in the History of the Pelican State.” The book is a collection of essays featuring recent scholarship and covering material on every region of Louisiana. Martin is also the managing editor of the Louisiana Historical Association’s quarterly journal, “Louisiana History” and his publications include “Chemical Engineering at the University of Arkansas:  A Centennial History, 1902-2002” and “Historic Lafayette.” Allured is the co-editor of “Louisiana Women: Their Lives and Times” and she also shared the authorship of “Images of America: Lake Charles.” She is currently working on a history of the modern feminist movement in Louisiana.
            LSU Press publishes this week “The ‘Baby Dolls’: Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition” by Kim Marie Vaz, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of education at Xavier University. The Baby Dolls formed around 1912 as an organization for African American women who used their profits from working in New Orleans’s Storyville district to compete with other Black prostitutes on Mardi Gras. Their baby doll costumes — short satin dresses, stockings with garters and bonnets — not only exploited stereotypes but also empowered and made visible an otherwise marginalized female demographic, according to the book’s press release. In addition to creating a subversive presence at Mardi Gras, the Baby Dolls also helped shape the sound of jazz in the city. Vaz follows the Baby Doll phenomenon through 100 years with photos, articles and interviews and concludes with the birth of contemporary groups such as Antoinette K-Doe’s Ernie K-Doe Baby Dolls, the New Orleans Society of Dance’s Baby Doll Ladies and the Tremé Million Dollar Baby Dolls.
            Vernon Valentine Palmer, the Thomas Pickles Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Eason Weinmann Center for Comparative Law at Tulane University, has published “Through the Codes Darkly: Slave Law and Civil Law in Louisiana.” The book examines the heritage of slave law in Louisiana, a profile of the first effort in modern history to integrate slavery into a European-style civil code, the 1808 Digest of Orleans, and a new unabridged translation by Palmer of the Code Noir of 1724 with the original French text on facing pages. Palmer is the author of more than 40 books and articles.
            Many people recognize the famous Supreme Court case of Plessy vs. Ferguson, which established the idea of separate but equal about blacks and whites in the late 19th century. Homer Plessy, a free man of color who was arrested in 1892 for sitting in the “white” section of a train, was a New Orleans resident. The event was orchestrated by the Comité des Citoyens in a campaign to test segregation’s legality. The case went as far as the Supreme Court, which backed segregation, holding firm until Brown vs. Board of Education ruled it illegal. Keith Weldon Medley details Plessy’s fight in “We as Freemen: Plessy vs. Ferguson, The Fight Against Legal Segregation,” now in paperback by Pelican Publishing of New Orleans.
LSU Libraries
            Cristina Caminita, the LSU Libraries’ agriculture and information literacy librarian, is one of 56 library professionals selected nationwide to participate in the American Library Association’s 2013 Class of Emerging Leaders.
            Hill Memorial Library on the LSU campus will host a film series throughout the spring, open to the public and free. The films will be shown at 2 p.m. with a guest scholar introduction on the following days:  
            Wednesday, Jan. 23, the series kicks off with “The September Issue,” a 2009 documentary that chronicles Vogue Magazine editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and her staff as they prepare the publication’s 2007 fall fashion issue;
            Wednesday, Feb. 20, in recognition of Black History Month, the series will feature the 1989 film “Glory” starring Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington and Matthew Broderick;
            Wednesday, March 13, celebrating Women’s History Month, the series will showcase the controversial 2009 Australian documentary, “Stolen” relating to modern-day slavery issues in northern African refugee camps; and
            Wednesday, April 17, the series concludes with a screening of “If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front.”
             Refreshments will be provided. For more information, contact LSU Libraries Reference Assistant Coordinator Kelly Blessinger at (225) 578-8538 or email kblessi@lsu.edu.

Cinema on the Bayou
            The eighth annual Cinema on the Bayou Film Festival begins this week with several screenings Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 26-27, at the South Regional Library Auditorium. Cinema on the Bayou is an annual five-day film festival committed to advancing the understanding of Cajun and Creole cultures through film screenings, panels and cultural exchanges among French Louisiana, the U.S. and the Francophone countries of the world. For more information, visit CinemaOnTheBayou.com.

Book events
            A book discussion of “In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin" by Erik Larson
will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday at the World War II Museum in New Orleans.
            Casa Azul in Grand Coteau presents La Scene Ouverte for all ages (open mic in French) beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday.
            The St. Landry-Evangeline United Way will host the “Harlem Ambassadors vs. Team United,” to benefit The Dolly Parton Imagination Library, at 7 p.m. Thursday at Opelousas High School Gym in Opelousas. For information, call (337) 942-7815.
            The UNO Creative Writing Workshop and the UNO Fine Arts Department will host a poetry reading at 7 p.m. Thursday at the UNO Fine Arts Campus Gallery. Poet Megan Burns, whose most recent collection is out from Dancing Girl Press, will read from her “Dollbaby poems” and the “Poetic of Nicki Minaj.” Poet Kristin Sanders, whose poetry chapbook “Orthorexia” is also out from Dancing Girl Press, will read and sing her newest series, “I Learned To Be A Woman From A Nineties Country Song.” A wine and cheese reception and book signing will follow the reading.

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 chere@louisianabooknews.com.

Monday, January 14, 2013

53 Acadiana women celebrated in new book

             Lafayette-based therapist Fran Clarke developed an eight-month “Heroine’s Journey: A Woman’s Search for Truth” program to help women find their path, from discovering their creative spark to expressing a personal truth. She has published a book based on her work featuring 53 women of Acadiana in “Treasures of the Journey: Awakening Feminine Wisdom, Beauty and Passion.”
            “When I first developed The Heroine’s Journey, I could never have imagined the holiness that I would experience through the unfolding beauty, spirit and power of the women in each circle,” Clarke wrote me. “Most of them had never written or created before participating in this program, but were able to access and express themselves from deep within.”
            “Treasures of the Journey” includes works of poetry, art and photography in 120 full-color pages.
            There will be a book release party from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. today at First Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall, 1130 Johnston St. in Lafayette. A limited number of copies will be available for purchase with additional copies available through Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com.

New LSU releases
            LSU Press has published several new titles in the past few weeks, from political interpretation and American history to poetry.
            Ruth Salvaggio, professor of English and American Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, grew up in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, while cleaning out her home, she discovered a book of Sappho’s poetry and worked to save it from the muck and mud. This discovery began a journey for Salvaggio, herself an author of several books of poetry. She writes about New Orleans’ poetry history, its words hailing from its many cultures and neighborhoods, in “Hearing Sappho in New Orleans: The Call of Poetry from Congo Square to the Ninth Ward.”  
            Sally Van Doren has released her second collection of poetry, titled “Possessive,” out this week from LSU Press. Van Doren’s first book, “Sex at Noon Taxes,” received the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. She has taught in the St. Louis Public Schools and curates the Sunday Poetry Series for the St. Louis Poetry Center.
            David Huddle’s latest poetry collection, “Blacksnake at the Family Reunion,” told by a quirky, usually reticent great uncle, is now available from LSU Press. A native of Ivanhoe, Va., Huddle is the author of 17 books of poetry, fiction and essays, and has taught at the University of Vermont, the Bread Loaf School of English, the Rainier Writing Workshop and Hollins University.
            White Southerners loyal to the Republican Party during Reconstruction following the Civil War were often referred to as “scalawags,” labeled Union sympathizers, race traitors and “poor white trash.” Frank J. Wetta, a senior fellow at the Center for History, Politics and Policy at Kean University, seeks to debunk that myth in “The Louisiana Scalawags: Politics, Race and Terrorism during the Civil War and Reconstruction.” Wetta contends that these men were educated, held government positions in antebellum years and looked to form an alliance with the freedmen in a biracial political party, one that eventually failed in Louisiana.

Lafayette Library news
            Iberia Parish Library has kicked off its New Year by opening a Cyber Café featuring coffee, hot tea and water. Visitors may enjoy the café-style setting from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays in the Main Library’s large meeting room in New Iberia.
            The Lafayette Public Library is offering a class for children ages 5 to 12 to create a Mardi Gras poster at the following libraries: Jefferson Street Branch (261-5779) 
at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16; Milton Branch (856-5261)
at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22; Youngsville Branch (856-9385)
at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24; and South Regional Library (981-1028)
at 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31. “Take It and Make It Craft” kits will be available, while supplies last, during the week of Jan. 22–28 at the following library locations: Broussard, Butler, Duson, North Regional, Scott and Chenier libraries.
            “Different Approaches: A Photography Exhibit” by Bob Adams, Jo Ann Gary and Karen Hoyt will be on display Jan. 9 through Feb. 27 at Galerie Lafayette in the Jefferson Street Branch, 538 Jefferson St. 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 chere@louisianabooknews.com.

A few titles that got away

             One of the problems of writing a book column that highlights books and authors of an entire state is the mound of books that sometimes appears on my desk, or the wonderful literary events that need mentioning every week. It’s sometimes hard to keep up with it all.
            Here are a few books that got away from me this year — and there are more, I assure you. My apologies to the authors and publishers — and to those I might have missed.
            One of the thrills of 2012 was receiving James Lee Burke’s “Creole Bell” and knowing that his recurring character, Dave Robicheaux, was alive and still chasing the state’s demons. I savored this book but failed to review it, but I doubt Burke lovers are waiting for me to tell them to buy it. “Creole Bell” deals with Robicheaux healing in a New Orleans hospital after receiving gun shot wounds from Burke’s previous book, “The Glass Rainbow.” In a morphine haze he receives a visitor, Tee Jolie Melton, who gives him an iPod with a country blues song, “My Creole Belle.” Robicheaux later learns Tee Jolie is missing and her sister turns up dead. Coupled with a Gulf oil spill, Robicheaux is on the trail once again.
            Sherry Alexander’s “Courtroom Carnival: Famous New Orleans Trials” (Pelican Publishing) is a well-written and highly entertaining collection of some of the most colorful judicial experiences of the Big Easy, from Popeyes Al Copeland to former Gov. Edwin Edwards. The book contains 10 chapters and not only discusses the trials but the personalities and life stories as well. There’s Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee, TV and radio personality Ron Hunter, Harry Connick Sr., the “Singing D.A.” and much more. The book is edited and sometimes written by Alexander, a journalist who serves on the Loyola University faculty, and includes contributions by Jennifer John Block, Eric Bremer, Lyn Koppel, Glenn Watts and Charles Zewe.
             Also out this year by Pelican is a reprint of Robert Tallant’s 1952 book, “Ready to Hang: Seven Famous New Orleans Murders,” discussing some of the city’s most notorious murders. Tallant wrote novels, short stories, books for children and nonfiction titles for years from his hometown of New Orleans, including “Evangeline and the Acadians,” “The Pirate Lafitte and the Battle of New Orleans” and “Gumbo Ya-Ya: Folk Tales of Louisiana.”

La. State Library’s Teen Video Challenge
            The State Library of Louisiana will again participate in the Collaborative Summer Library Program’s Teen Video Challenge, a national video competition for teens to encourage them to read and be involved with their public library’s summer reading program.
            Teenagers may enter the competition by creating a public service announcement that encourages teens to read and visit libraries during the summer using the theme “Beneath the Surface.”
            The winning video from each participating state will be announced in spring 2013 and used by public libraries nationally to promote summer reading. The creators of the winning state video will be awarded $275 and their associated public library will receive prizes worth $125 from the CSLP.
            Rules and details for the teen video challenge can be found on the State Library’s website, www.state.lib.la.us.
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 chere@louisianabooknews.com.

New releases by LSU Press, LEH, Andrei Codrescu

            Randy Harelson discusses the history and culture of Pointe Coupee Parish, complemented by haunting photos of Richard Sexton in the LSU Press coffee table book, “New Roads and Old Rivers: Louisiana’s Historic Pointe Coupee Parish.” This gorgeous book dedicated to one of the oldest parishes in the state examines its unique geography, hugging oxbow lakes of Old River and False River and bookended by the Mississippi River and the Atchafalaya. Because of its water access plantations were popular here, attracting Creole families as early as 1726.
            The authors offer sections on the many historic properties of the parish, unique architectural structures such as the new Aubudon Bridge, old neighborhoods and towns, churches and cemeteries and popular spots such as the Miss Jane Pittman Oak, inspired by the work of Ernest Gaines. 
            One of the highlights of 2012 was the publication of the impressive “A Unique Slant of Light: The Bicentennial History of Art in Louisiana,” published by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities and honoring 200 years of Louisiana statehood.
            The giant 456-page tome commissioned by the state’s Bicentennial Commission begins with Louisiana’s establishment as a colony in 1699 moving up to present-day and Louisiana’s contemporary scene.  “A Unique Slant of Light” includes 276 entries on Louisiana artists, authored by dozens of scholars and more than 400 images from private collections and the state’s major museums and archives, including the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the Historic New Orleans Collection, the Louisiana State Museum, the LSU Museum of Art, the Meadows Museum at Centenary College of Louisiana and the New Orleans Museum of Art.
            The book comes with a hefty price tag ($120) but worth the money, not to mention profits benefit the LEH.  

Other new releases
            Poet and essayist Andrei Codrescu has two new titles out — “Bibliodeath: My Archives (With Life in Footnotes),” which surveys the evolutionary relationship between language and technology through Codrescu’s career as an American writer, and “So Recently Rent a World: New and Selected Poems 1968 – 2012” by Coffee House Press. Codrescu is the author of 40 books, has edited the literary magazine Exquisite Corpse, and is featured regularly on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” A former resident of New Orleans, he currently lives in the Ozarks.
            Pelican Publishing of New Orleans has released “Creole Gumbo and All That Jazz: A New Orleans Seafood Cookbook” by the late Howard Mitcham, a New Orleans chef, poet, artist and raconteur. Anthony Bourdain said of the book: “Hugely influential for me and my budding culinary peers of the time . . . both [Mitcham] and his books were fascinating depositories of recipes, recollections, history, folklore and illustrations, drawing on his abiding love for humble, working-class ethnic food of the area.”
            NewSouth Books has published “Eden Rise,” a first novel by Robert J. Norrell, historian and civil rights scholar acclaimed for his biography on Booker T. Washington and winner of the 1986 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award for “Reaping the Whirlwind.” “Eden Rise” follows a white college freshman who returns home to the Alabama Black Belt in the summer of 1965 and becomes embroiled in a civil-rights conflict that divides his family and town. You can learn more and read an excerpt at http://www.newsouthbooks.com/edenrise.

Children’s books
            New Orleans children’s book author Whitney Stewart informed me she has a children’s book on meditation coming out next year and a New Orleans young adult novel in the works. Things to look forward to for 2013. But if you haven’t read any of Stewart’s books, she is the author of “Marshall, The Sea Dog,” “Mr. Lincoln’s Gift,” “Who Was Walt Disney?” and “Coffin’s Ghost.” For more information, visit www.whitneystewart.com.
            Roger Raymond of New Iberia is the author and creator of “Ralph Filmore: Paranormal Investigator,” a children’s book series he is working on becoming a TV series and video game, and “The Fun Adventures of Puff and Bean,” written by Roger and his wife, LaLonda Raymond. For more information, visit www.puffandbean.com.
            Jeff Kinney brings his unique magic in storytelling and artistry with “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel.” Main character Greg Heffley has his usual middle school angst and issues but a Valentine’s Day dance provides special conflict when he has to find a date.
            A lovely new creative children’s picture book that combines paper cut collages from old catalogues, books and letters to create snow scenes is “A Perfect Day” by Carin Berger. After a snowstorm, the world turns white, offering all kinds of winter fun. After ice skating, making snow angels, sleding and more, the children return home to “warm hugs and dry clothes and steaming hot chocolate.”

State Library contest
            The State Library of Louisiana’s Center for the Book, in partnership with the Louisiana Writing Project, is now accepting entries to Letters About Literature, a national reading-writing contest for students. To enter, fourth through 10th grade students should write personal letters to authors, living or dead, from any genre explaining how the author’s work changed the student’s way of thinking about the world or themselves.
            Louisiana’s first place winners’ entries will be submitted to the Library of Congress for the national competition with the chance of winning $1,000.
State winners in each level, to be announced in April, will receive $100 for first place, $75 for second place and $50 for third place. State winners will be recognized at the Louisiana Book Festival on Nov. 2, 2013.
            Students may enter either on their own or through a classroom teacher, school or library. There are three competition levels: level 1 for grades 4–6, level 2 for grades 7–8 and level 3 for grades 9–10. The student’s letter and entry coupon, available online, must be sent by Jan. 13, 2013, to Letters About Literature, P.O. Box 5308, Woodbridge, VA 22194.
            Teachers and home-school instructors along with school, public children and public young adult librarians can download Letters About Literature lesson plans for their curricula and programming as well as find entry forms at www.LettersAboutLiterature.org.  

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 chere@louisianabooknews.com.

Delta Magazine honors region with new book

             Delta Magazine commemorates 10 years of publishing with a gorgeous coffee table book that honors the people, land and traditions of Mississippi.
            “The Delta: Landscapes, Legends and Legacies of Mississippi’s Most Storied Region,” edited by Melissa Townsend with a foreword by Luther Brown, compiles essays, magazine features, interviews and exquisite photos from the first 60 issues of the magazine starting in 2003. The book veers from an essay by renowned artist William Dunlap to a photo of Robert Johnson’s grave, from remembering blues legend “Son” Thomas and Delta writers and artists to showcasing “Delta characters.” And the “Classic Delta Cuisine” chapter will make you want to jump in your car and head to Mississippi.
            What readers will learn is that so much of America’s culture derives from the Delta, whether it’s a tale told by William Faulkner, a film starring Morgan Freeman or Muddy Waters singing the blues. Aretha Franklin’s father pastured a church in Sunflower and Michelle Obama’s great grandparents sharecropped near Lamont, reminds us Brown in the foreword.
            “It’s a story that should be more widely told, about a great place filled with creative and persevering people who take pride in their home and their lives,” Brown writes. “It’s a Delta story that is an American story.”
            For more information and to purchase a copy, visit Paul Michael in Monroe, or the magazine’s web site, deltamagazine.com.

Arcadia history
            Arcadia Publishing has two new books out involving Louisiana history — “Louisiana’s Oil Heritage” and “Scott,” both part of the publisher’s “Images of America” series.
            “Louisiana’s Oil Heritage” by Tonja Koob Marking and Jennifer Snape takes readers from W. Scott Heywood’s first successful oil well on the Mamou Prairie, now Jennings, to the Caddo Oilfield. The book looks at the state’s industry origins within the different regions, oil transportation (including by mule and small boat), life in the camps and celebrating the oil industry with special events.
            Arcadia’s “Scott” was produced by the Scott Historical and Genealogical Society and follows the history of the town from a farming community to arrival of the railroad and its being named “Where the West Begins.” Photos of early settlers are included, as are famous residents such as Zachard Richard, as well as businesses, landmarks, homes, schools and churches. There are nods to sports and those who served in the military and a nice chapter on “everyday life.”
            Both can be found at local bookstores and online at www.arcadiapublishing.com, but here’s a great way to get a free copy of “Scott.” Can you identify the person in the photo above? If you can, you win a free book! Email me at chere@louisianabooknews.com with who you think is pictured and the first person to correctly identify the man wins.

Acadian history
            There are three new books published on Acadian history.
            UL Press has published “Histoire des Acadiennes et Acadiens de la Louisiane,” authored by musician, author, documentarian and cultural activist Zachary Richard of Scott. The French edition is intended for French immersion students in Louisiana studies but is also an excellent guide to Acadian/Cajun history and culture.
            For those who want a guide to Acadian history in English, Oxford University Press has published “The Acadian Diaspora: An Eighteenth-Century History” by Christopher Hodson, assistant professor of history at Brigham Young University. The book focuses on le grand derangement of the Acadians from the Maritime Provinces of Canada beginning in 1755.
            Journalist Richard Holledge first heard of the Acadians and their history when he was on assignment for The Times of London, writing a piece about Tabasco. His exposure to Cajun Country resulted in his novel, “The Scattered,” about the Acadian Diaspora, available on Amazon.com.
            “A few years later, by chance,” Holledge writes in the book’s foreword, “I was reading ‘Crucible of War,’ an account of the battle for power in North America between France and Britain by historian Fred Anderson, who described the expulsion as ‘chillingly reminiscent of modern ethnic cleansing’ operations…executed with a coldness and calculation rarely seen in other wartime operations.”
            In “The Scattered,” Holledge follows a group of exiles from Grand Pré, Nova Scotia, to France and eventually Louisiana. 

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 chere@louisianabooknews.com.