Sunday, November 22, 2015

Great new releases from Mardi Gras to children's books — which makes excellent holiday gifts

As we head into Thanksgiving week and the insanity that reins the following day known as Black Friday, please pause to give thanks to the Louisiana authors who not only supply us with hours of entertainment and education but promote literacy throughout our state.
In that vein, books make excellent gifts. A purchase opens up a new world to the giver, helps authors keep the lights on and promotes reading. So please, give books this holiday season.

Mardi Gras Moments
I hail from the Crescent City and am constantly asked by those who aren’t from or familiar with New Orleans why we raise our shirts to catch beads and create untamed debauchery at Mardi Gras. My answer: If you’re a tourist, you’re likely to experience both. If you’re a native, you’ll be on the parade route with your family of all ages enjoying the magnificent spectacular that is Carnival, whether the gorgeous floats, the talented bands, the unique traditions or a combination of all.
Mardi Gras is so much more than what is portrayed on TV and kudos to Judi Bottoni and Peggy Scott Laborde for creating a book that exemplifies the city’s grand party in all its flavors. “New Orleans Mardi Gras Moments” by Pelican Publishing of New Orleans showcases the parades, the “sub-krewes” such as the popular dancing troupes with names such as the Muff-a-lottas and the Laissez Boys, the music, celebrities, Black Carnival, the business of throws and much more.
The small but comprehensive book offers proof that New Orleans Carnival is a city-wide celebration of longstanding traditions, a festival that includes children as well as those seeking to let loose. It’s the perfect gift for lovers of Carnival — my mother already nabbed my copy — and those who may doubt its wide-reaching appeal.

New releases
Singer-songwriter, poet, cultural activist and environmentalist Zachary Richard’s latest book for children, “The Legend of L’il Red,” is a fable in the Aesop’s tradition, a story of friendship, persistence, tolerance and love. A blind turtle and a one-clawed baby crawfish find each other in the middle of a hurricane and set off in search of a new claw for the little crawfish, encountering a host of creatures and confronting challenges along the way. Richard will sign the book, published by UL-Lafayette Press, and perform a song at 6 p.m. tonight at Octavia Books of New Orleans.
David Armand, a Southeastern professor and editor for Louisiana Literature Press, follows up his award-winning novels “The Puglist’s Wife” and “Harlow” with “The Gorge,” a thriller that centers around the disappearance of a young girl in the woods of southeast Louisiana. The haunting book follows several characters who are suspects in the case, including the murdered girl’s boyfriend and her sometimes violent father.
Chef Emeril Lagasse has yet another cookbook out, this time focusing on iconic dishes and personal anecdotes behind each recipe in “Essential Emeril.” There’s also appearances from top chefs such as Mario Batali, Roy Choi, and Nobu Matsuhira along with family members and early influences such as Julia Child and Charlie Trotter.
Robert Crais, who hails from Baton Rouge, has published his 20th novel, “The Promise,” featuring recurring characters Elvis Cole and Joe Pike as they look for a missing woman who might be dealing with al-Qaeda.

Cheré Dastugue 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.” She also writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire, “A Cajun Dream” and “The Letter.” Write her at