Sunday, July 21, 2013

New Orleans educator offers views of system in 'Flood of Conflict'

             Robert M. Ferris found education to be his passion when he left college and joined the Head Start program. Through the years and many experiences, from Mobile to Montana, Ferris learned early the best way to encourage children to learn.
            In 1971, he stated The New Orleans Free School with little money and a huge dose of enthusiasm.
            “We started a school without any corporate or governmental authority or support,” he writes in his book, “Flood of Conflict: The New Orleans Free School Story.” “We simply opened our doors and said we were a school.”
            In 1973, the school became a public school and part of the Orleans Parish bureaucracy. From fairly early on until Katrina closed the school for good, Ferris and The New Orleans Free School fought an ongoing battle with the parish school board and the powers that be.
            Ferris’s book details his life’s work in education, the history of the school and his thoughts on education in general. Naturally, Ferris is not a fan of bureaucracy dictating school policy, unless schools are run by smaller units of government. He’s also not a fan of high-stakes testing, but supports charter schools, “fair and equitable spending” and early childhood education.
            Ferris received his master of science in education from Indiana University in 1978 and his doctor of education in 1989 from Vanderbilt. He and his wife live in New Orleans.

New releases
            New Orleans journalist Ramon Antonio Vargas has published a book that looks at the 1945 Loyola New Orleans Wolf Pack, the city’s first basketball team to earn a national championship, in “Fight, Grin and Squarely Play the Game: The 1945Loyola New Orleans Basketball Championship and Legacy.”
            Margaret Media, Inc. has released “Singing to the Lions,” a war novel written by Vietnam veteran Robert A. Gisclair of Cut Off. Gisclair went to Vietnam in 1968 with the 501st Infantry, 101st Airborne Division. On his return from Vietnam he spent three years in college, then worked 35 years in the oil fields and off shore platforms. He’s backpacked through Europe, the Americas, Asia and the Middle East.
Book awards
            Acadian House Publishing’s “Eli’s Reach: On the Value of Human Life and the Power ofPrayer,” written by the boy’s father, Chad Judice of Lafayette, has been recognized as the Book of the Year by a Small Publisher in the U.S. by the Catholic Press Association. The book was released in the fall of 2012 and follows Eli Judice, age 4, who was born with spina bifida.
            “The story of Eli, his parents, and the ultimate unfolding of faith in the midst of harrowing challenges is exemplary.…The book is beautifully rendered in word and image,” the association stated in announcing the award.
             “Eli’s Reach” is the sequel to “Waiting for Eli: A Father’s Journey from Fear to Faith.” Both books are available through bookstores and gift shops nationwide, online at or by calling (800) 850-8851.

            Did you know that Louisiana Book News has a Pinterest page? I have a web site as well with a list of the state’s authors, but it’s so much easier posting local books to Pinterest. The Louisiana Book News Pinterest board is full of Louisiana books with links for more information. It’s growing so if you see a book that’s not there and should be, let me know!
            While updating my Pinterest boards I ran across photographer Joe Todd and learned that he has published a book that highlights the birds and animals at the Lake Martin Bird Sanctuary on the Cypress Island Preserve, titled “Lake Martin BirdSanctuary." Retired and living in Opelousas, Todd spends time in the great outdoors such as Lake Martin capturing wildlife with his camera. He also started a business called Photopinups in 1990, supplying photographic prints and novelties to gift shops and other retail outlets. For information, visit

Book events
            Matthew Guinn will offer a reading and signing at 5 p.m. Saturday, July 27, with Steve Yates at Lorelei Books in Vicksburg, Miss.
            Former Louisiana poet laureate Darrell Bourque will arrive by raft along bayous Teche and Fuselier to read from his latest book of poetry, “Megan’s Guitar and Other Poems from Acadie,” at 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 26, at Bayou Warehouse, 149 Fuselier Road in Arnaudville (next to Little Big Cup).

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