Sunday, June 14, 2015

William Joyce's latest recalls his very first book

             Kids may be out of school right now, but summer is a great time to read. If you haven’t signed your children up for the library’s summer reading program, do so now. In addition to encouraging kids to read all summer long, the library offers special activities, from live entertainment to crafts.
            But if you need some reading suggestions, here are a few.
When Shreveport Academy Award-winning filmmaker, bestselling author and animator William Joyce was young, he looked at the world differently from other kids. When his school announced there would be a writing contest, Joyce thought for sure his creative story, about a kid who believed his boogers had super powers, would win. Instead, he got called to the principal’s office.
Joyce returns to those days “when TV was in black and white, and there were only three channels, and when kids didn’t have playdates — they just roamed free in the ‘out of doors,’” in “Billy’s Booger: A Memoir.” The book follows Billy as he excitedly writes the tale, loses faith when he doesn’t even win an honorable mention but then realizes he has an audience with the school’s children, who love the tale.
The original pages from his elementary school days are included in the book’s middle, a nice reminder to creative kids who don’t always fit in that greater things could be in store for them when they grow up.
Joyce cofounded Moonbot Studios in Shreveport and is the author of “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,” “The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs,” “The Numberlys” and “Rolie Polie Olie,” among many other books and films.
Another book that incorporates tales within its pages is “Inside This Book (are three books)” by Barney Saltzberg. Seymour fills his book of blank pages created by his mom with things he sees and hears while his sister Fiona prefers poetry in hers and the youngest brother, Wilbur, draws photos in his tiny book that Seymour captions. The three kids put their books inside the larger book because “books are better when they are shared.”
Mark Teague, author of “Funny Farm” and “Pigsty,” among so many other great books, gives his take on the classic paranoid tale in “The Sky is Falling!” Chicken Little gets hit in the head with an acorn and, despite squirrel trying to explain what happened, believes the sky is falling. Teague’s tale has a fun twist, however, and includes dancing animals and a fox who isn’t as clever as he seems.
            For teens, check out Sarah Guillory of Louisiana who pens award-winning young adults novels. Her latest is “Reclaimed,” starring Jenna Oliver who wants to escape her small town and alcoholic mother. Jenna meets up with newcomers, the McAlister twins: Ian, who can’t remember anything from the last three months and who falls for Jenna, and Luke, who can’t resist Jenna, which makes Ian’s memory return. Jenna, Ian and Luke are about to learn there are only so many secrets you can keep before the truth comes to reclaim you.
            Guillory will speak about her books and sign copies at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Baton Rouge Public Library.
            And because I’m running out of space, I’ll continue this list next week.

New releases
            Dixon Hearne of Monroe has just published a comedic novella titled “From Tickfaw to Shongaloo” from Southeast Missouri State University Press. The book was awarded sole runner-up in the 2014 William Faulkner-William Wisdom competition. The book is available at Amazon.com. For more information on the author, visit www.dixonhearne.com.
            Jami Attenberg, who winters in New Orleans, chooses Jazz Age New York City for her latest novel, “Saint Mazie,” in which Mazie Phillips, proprietress of The Venice, the famed New York City movie theater, keeps a detailed diary. Years later the diary is discovered by a documentarian in search of a good story. Who was Mazie Phillips, really? A chorus of voices from the past and present fill in some of the mysterious blanks of her adventurous life. “Saint Mazie” is also Amazon’s June spotlight pick.
            Urbanist and Journalist Roberta Brandes Gratz has published a book chronicling Hurricane Katrina’s transformation of New Orleans in “We’re Still Here Ya Bastards: How the People of New Orleans Rebuilt Their City.” Gratz has published three previous books on urbanism, including “The Battle for Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs.” Her writing has also appeared in the Nation, New York Times Magazine and the Wall Street Journal. She splits her time between New York City and New Orleans.

Book events
The Historic New Orleans Collection’s latest exhibition, “Purchased Lives: New Orleans and the Domestic Slave Trade, 1808–1865,” will run through July 18, and several special events have been scheduled. William Earle Williams of Haverford College will speak on “A Stirring Song Sung Heroic: African Americans from Slavery to Freedom, 1619 to 1865 and Beyond” from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the New Orleans museum. Admission is free.


Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.