Category Archives: History

Miss Paul and the President by Dean Robbins

Miss Paul and the President by Dean Robbins

Today’s Perfect Picture Book pick is Miss Paul and the President: The Creative Campaign for Women’s Right to Vote. 

Written by: Dean Robbins

Illustrated by:  Nancy Zhang

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers  (September 2016)

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Activism, Right to vote, Women’s suffrage, US history

Brief Synopsis:  As a child Alice Paul saw her father go off to vote but not her mother. Why?  She studied the nation’s laws and knew they needed to change to allow women the right to vote. Alice protested in different ways and convinced other women to join her.

One day in 1914 she organized a parade that upstaged the arrival of the newly elected President, Woodrow Wilson. He asked to meet her. However the president told her he had more pressing issues to deal with that working on the women’s right to vote . But that didn’t stop Alice Paul. She persisted. Even the president’s daughter Margaret agreed with Alice Paul. Then one day in 1918, President Wilson agreed too!

Opening pages:

Alice Paul hurried up and down Pennsylvania Avenue in a purple hat.

She wanted to make everything perfect for her parade. A parade in Washington D. C. no one would ever forget!”

 Why I like this book This is a wonderful introduction to a female activist who was instrumental in the fight for the right to vote for women. Through scenes that are both playful and serious, Robbins tells the story of activism by describing the actions and persistence of Alice Paul. 

The book is a wonderful introduction to this period in history and could spark discussion about the US Constitution as well as the role of Congress in making laws. 

Resources

  • Scroll down the author’s website for Activities for Miss Paul and the President: The Creative Campaign for Women’s Right to Vote. 

  •  A teaching unit about women’s suffrage movement can be found from Rutgers: Teach a Girl to Lead

  • Head over to A Mighty Girl to find girl-empowering resources such as toys, movies, music and books. 

Read more of today’s reviews at author Susanna Hill’s blog.

Happy reading!

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The 12 Days of Christmas starts today!

The 12 Days of Christmas starts today!

The 12 days of Christmas starts today. I know the song by the same name first played on the radio the day after Halloween. For some cultures, primarily in Europe and Latin America, the first day of Christmas started on December 25 and will end January 5. Here in the US, at least in creole Louisiana, the first day starts today, December 26 and will end January 6.

So what’s up with that song? We know it’s about someone getting lots of gifts, especially birds, from their true love. A wee research led me to a number of guesses about its origin. The earliest written version is from 1780 published as a children’s “memory and forfeits” game much like the game ‘I went to the market and bought’ where players are tasked with remembering and repeating what was said before them. Others hypothesize it’s an English Christmas carol, a French folk song from 1770, and even a ‘code’ persecuted English Catholics used to practice their faith back in the 16th-17th centuries. A century later it was described as a game played at a Twelfth night celebration.

Fast forward to the 19th-20th centuries and the parodies ensued. If “The 12 Days of Christmas” Happened in Real Life and a very funny video 12 Days of Christmas parody of the Johnston family.


Although no one can say with certainty what the meaning is behind the song or the origin, today it’s rooted in both secular and Christian Christmas traditions. And it’s so much fun to sing! Whether there is a connection or not, there are 12 days from today till January 6th, also known Twelfth Night, Le Petit Noël, Little Christmas, Feast of the Epiphany, or Three Kings’ Day.

Whether the song is enjoyed for a secular or religious reason, we can extend the spirit of the season 12 more days. My plan is continue gift giving, but through acts of kindness. I hope you will join me!

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A Perfect Picture Book Pair – Girls Rule Dress-up

A Perfect Picture Book Pair – Girls Rule Dress-up

What a fun perfect picture book pair about little girls who love to dress-up. But looking pretty is only one part.

Girls

Mary Had a Little Glam by Tammi Sauer (Author)

Vanessa Brantley-Newton (Illustrator)

Published by Sterling (August 2016)

Age Range: 4-8 years.

Mary is a bit of a fashionista but she won’t let her goals interfere with her fun! The ending is delightful.

**********

Every-day Dress-up by Selina Alko (Author/Illustrator)

Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers (October 12011)

Age Range: 3-7 years.

Do all girls dress like princesses? Not this one. She dresses like famous female role models. 

Perfect Picture Book Pair showcases two books with universal themes, but one must include a diverse setting, or life experience,  or main character. My goal is to support books in the market that helps contribute to diversity in children’s literature. 

Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness…” I believe reading is too! 

Kids love to see their reflections in books. Join me and #ReadYourWorld!

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Sewing Stories by Barbara Herkert

Sewing Stories by Barbara Herkert

Today’s pick for Perfect Picture Book Friday is Harriet Powers’ Journey from Slave to Artist Sewing Stories

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Written by: Barbara Herkert

Illustrated by: Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf (October 2015)

Suitable for ages: 5-8

Themes/Topics: folk-art, quilting, community, survival, determination, resilience, US history, women’s history, slavery, emancipation, Civil War

 

Brief Synopsis: This story is about the life of Harriet Powers who is not well known, yet whose legacy of early African-American folk art is displayed in the National Museum of American History, part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Even though she lived her early life enslaved and remained poor throughout her adult life, Harriet believed, “You gotta take what you’ve been given and make something out of it.” And that she did.

 

After enslaved women labored in the fields and or made textiles for the plantation, they used their craft to create story quilts. Over time, sewing became a source of pride and income for Harriet. I imagine the craft had to have helped strengthen her community during the dark times of unfathomable oppression while living either enslaved or free.

 

Given the recent discussion about the picture book, A Birthday Cake for George Washington, some question why Sewing Stories has not received the same criticism for “smiling slaves”. In my opinion, this book includes facts in the sidebars that touch upon a shameful part of US history while at the same time weaves a story of hope, resilience, determination, and community, despite the oppression. This author does take liberties in a couple sidebars. In this example she intuits, “For a few daylight hours, they might have felt free.” Although sewing and quilting was done for the master, Harriet and her community made the craft their own. After emancipation she used her skills to eventually earn enough to help buy a small farm. The images of characters smiling shows a universal human emotion. Yes, the enslaved had the ability to feel those same human emotions of joy, pride, and hope too. This story is not only about individual pride, it is representative of the grit and struggle people like Harriet demonstrated.

 

Opening pages:  “See that sweet baby girl lying on a quilt her mama made? What could she be dreaming of?

 

On a plantation near Athens, Georgia, Harriet’s mama worked from rise to set while Harriet slept between the cotton rows.”

 

Why I like this book: I recently had a discussion with a fellow writer about depicting slavery in picture books. She told me her 5-year-old mentioned something about slaves one day. When probed, he said, “They ran away. Brave people helped them run away and they were safe.”

 

In a sense, Harriet ran. She ran toward developing a craft that helped her contribute to her family’s income, create a sense of self-worth, and hope for herself, and her community. At the end of the story, Harriet had to sell one of her quilts after falling on hard times. An art teacher named Jennie Smith purchased it, recorded her story, and kept her promise to exhibit it. Jennie was brave.

 

As writers, we will make mistakes despite our good intentions. But there are many stories that need to be told. For this bright 5-year-old eager to learn, we must continue to create stories that help him understand sensitive and complex topics. And that will take courage.

 

Resources:

 

*School & Library Journal listed other picture books that celebrate African-Americans in the Arts here.

 

*KidLitTV shared Librarian  Scott Woods’ list of diverse books –28 Black Picture Books That Aren’t About Boycotts, Buses or Basketball can be found here.

 

*Lee & Low’s collection of books to celebrate Black History Monty can be found here.

 

*Addressing the topic of slavery in the elementary classroom can be found here.

 

Check out author Susanna’s Hill’s Perfect Picture Book page here.

 

Happy Reading!

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A Storm Called Katrina

A Storm Called Katrina

Title: A Storm Called Katrina

5

Written by:  Myron Uhlberg

Illustrated by: Colin Bootman

Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (August 1, 2011)

Suitable for ages: 4 and up

Themes/Topics: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, natural disasters, family, community, survival, compassion, empathy, courage

Brief Synopsis: A Storm Called Katrina is the story of a family’s experiences with Hurricane Katrina told through the voice of Louis Daniel, a 10-year-old boy who dreamed of one day playing his trumpet like Louis Armstrong. Like many in the city, the family prepared for the storm but did not evacuate. The day after the storm the water began to rise and the family was forced to leave their home. They left with nothing but the clothes they were wearing but Louis took his horn. They were rescued and ended up in the Superdome.  Although the family survived the flood waters, the conditions in the stadium were harsh and dangerous. When his father went out to find water for the family, Louis and his mother, feeling unsafe, moved to different seats. Fearing his father would not be able to find them, Louis ran down to the football field to play his trumpet. The family is reunited when his father hears him play.

Opening Pages: “HURRICANE’S COMING, Baby,” Mama said.

“I’m not a baby anymore, Mama. I turned ten last month.”

“Doesn’t matter how old you are, Louis Daniel. You’ll always be my baby,” she said. “Hush now and go to bed.”

The wind rattled my window something fierce. When the storm howled louder, I covered my ears and hid under the blanket.”

Why I like this book: Author Myron Uhlberg writes a moving story about a tramatizing event that shows how one family was able to navigate and survive a natural disaster. However it is presented in a way that is not too scary for children and is rather touching. Illustrator Colin Bootman adds to the story with his authentic images of New Orleans at the time of the flood. I especially like the page where sunlight beaming through the torn off roof of the Superdome shines on Louis as he plays his trumpet hoping his father will hear his music. This book is a wonderful tribute to family, community, and survival.

Resources:

Click here to find classroom discussions questions about A Storm Called Katrina.

Click here for Facts for Kids.

Click here for Education World lessons on hurricanes.

Click here for Scholastic site. Hurricane Katrina for upper primary and middle school kids.

Click here for a wealth of articles and lessons for kids from TeacherVision

Click here for more about hurricanes from Science for Kids.

In My Heart: A Child’s Hurricane Katrina Story on YouTube.

Children of the Storm on YouTube

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Happy 4th of July Estados Unidos!

Happy 4th of July Estados Unidos!

Happy 4th of July Estados Unidos! Actually Louisianians would have said something like Feliz el 4 de Julio or Heureux le 4 éme Juillet. Thanks Google!

Language aside, the Spanish Colony of Louisiana under the leadership of Bernardo de Gálvez (photo below) joined forces with the British-Americans to fight for their independence against the British. Indigenous Native Louisianans fought alongside those of French, Spanish, African, German, Acadian, and Swiss descent. The rest as they say, is history. Why did Spanish Louisiana help British-America?

md-governor-bernardo-de-galvez  KCB 4th of July

European wars profoundly affected the fledgling French colony. Spain supported the American Revolution because of their losses to Britain during the Seven Year’s War (1756–1763). On the same day France relinquished most of her empire east of the Mississippi to Britain at the end of the Seven Years’ War, she ceded all her possessions west of the Mississippi to Spain, her ally in the conflict. Spain lost all of her North American territories (Spanish Florida) to regain control of Cuba and became the new ruler of the Louisiana Colony. In order to recoup her losses and to protect what was left of her colonies in the Americas, Spain used both international and domestic policies to guard and develop her holdings. Internationally, Spain’s support of the American Revolution helped protect her borders from Britain, while on the domestic front Spain needed to develop a prosperous Louisiana colony.

Allowed to access supplies through the port of Havana in Cuba as well as the port in New Orleans during the revolution, Spanish Louisiana played a crucial role in American Independence.  

You’re welcome America! Just sayin’!


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International Dot Day – Celibri-Dot

International Dot Day – Celibri-Dot

International Dot Day is named for the story written by Peter H. Reynolds titled The Dot. The book is about a girl who does not believe she can draw but through the encouragement of her art teacher learns she is able to “make her mark.” Every September schools all around the world are encouraged to celebrate International Dot Day through activities that inspire and encourage creativity. The teacher in the book told the little girl, “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.”

My Celebri-Dot, inspired by my hometown of New Orleans is definitely known for the creative spirit found throughout the city. And deserves a WHO DOT!  The design is dedicated to all the creatives who live there and to the people who had the courage to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. It’s been ten very long years.

Who Dot FINAL signed        dot-cover

Here are some tips of how to participate in International Dot Day:

  1. Check out the Dot Gallery to see examples of how others have celebrated.
  2. Read and discuss The Dot.
  3. Sign up and download the free Educator’s Handbook for International Dot Day.
  4. Follow the Celebri-Dots blog. Ask your favorite creative to share a dot.
  5. Share your DOTS and Dot Day activities!

 

 

 

 

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New Orleans Trivia Quiz-Mardi Gras, Baby!

New Orleans Trivia Quiz-Mardi Gras, Baby!

New Orleans trivia quizzes are designed as a fun way learn about one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Rich in tradition and culture, New Orleans is known as the festival capital of the United States. The culture, customs, and many traditions celebrated throughout the year started long before US statehood which makes the city genuinely unique.

New Orleans Carville

This first quiz tests your knowledge of Mardi Gras and that includes king cake, baby!

See my other posts about Mardi Gras and king cake and another about how to catch throws at a parade.  Head over to Goodreads to take the New Orleans Trivia multiple choice quiz. For a heads up, the questions are below.

How’s your knowledge of New Orleans culture?

Bonne chance! Good luck!

1. What is the first day king cake is traditionally eaten in New Orleans?

2. What does the New Orleans king cake symbolize?

3. Other than a plastic baby, what else is known to be hidden in king cakes?

4. Mardi Gras is an official holiday in which of these states?

5. Who chose purple, green, and gold as the official colors of Mardi Gras?

6. What do the words Mardi Gras mean in English?

7. What happens when you find the plastic king cake baby inside the cake?

8. What New Orleans Carnival krewe uses a bean and “mock wooden” king cake to choose their queen?

9. At a new Orleans Mardi Gras parade, the following may be caught from floats.

10. Where can you go to sample the best variety of Louisiana king cakes?

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Gingerbread Man & Runaway Tales, Near & Far

Gingerbread Man & Runaway Tales, Near & Far

Gingerbread Man runaway tales from near & far are as old as they are vast, brought to us in many versions from around the world. Research shows the story began as an oral storytelling tradition, a folktale. According to a researcher at The The Straight Dope, the history behind “gyngerbreed” dates back to 1386, that’s the 14th century folks! And the early gingerbread treats were made in the shape of a fluer de lis, or men or pigs.

Leave it to the Brothers’ Grimm to show the dark side of what most think of as a moral lesson to children about vanity. In their nightmarish twist on the Gingerbread Man a young child is splashed with mud and the mud steals the child’s eyes, nose, and mouth. Yikes! Then it runs off yelling, “You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man!” You can see a short clip of their creepy version on YouTube  here. Yeah, run, run, as fast as you can to get away from that thing!!!

The first documented account of a Gingerbread tale in the United States appeared in 1875. “The Gingerbread Boy,” was a story printed in the May issue of St. Nicholas magazine, a children’s literary journal. And over centuries, it has been re-imagined over and over.

What’s your favorite spin on this re-told tale? You know mine, The King Cake Baby, about our very own New Orleans runaway of course!

*updated with new titles

Follow my Gingerbread Man board on Pinterest.

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Swing Sisters by Karen Deans

Swing Sisters by Karen Deans

Swing Sisters: The International Sweethearts of Rhythm by Karen Deans is my pick for today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday in honor of Jazz Fest in New Orleans and Teacher’s Appreciation Week, both celebrated in the month of May.

Swing Sisters

Illustrated by: Joe Cepeda

Publisher: Holiday House (January 1, 2015)

Suitable for ages: 7-11

Themes:  women in music, educational activism, integration, jazz, gender studies, perseverance, inspiration, US history, Jim Crow laws, stereotypes

Brief Synopsis: This book brings attention to the first interracial all female jazz/swing band, The International Sweethearts of Rhythm formed in 1939 at Piney Woods Country Life School in Mississippi. The band became popular in the 1940’s and toured the US and Europe.

The story opens by bringing attention to Dr. Laurence Clifton Jones, a black educator who started a school in 1909 for orphans in Mississippi. Music education eventually became a part of the school’s curriculum and many of the Sweethearts were part of the school band.

Swing Sisters highlights the struggles these women endured from society because of both race and gender.

Opening pages:  “Way back in 1909, not far from Jackson, Mississippi, there was a special place for orphans It was called Piney Woods Country Life School.

A man named Dr. Laurence Clifton Jones started the school. He wanted to make sure these African American kids had a place to live, food to eat, clothes to wear, and a good education. In return, the children worked at the school to earn their keep. Some planted seeds and picked weeds outside on the farm; others chopped vegetables in the kitchen or did laundry.”

Why I like this book: A great example of history using a story that inspires and educates. During one of the most difficult times in US history when the intent of oppression from Jim Crow laws was to prevent African Americans from achievement, this band of talented women, black and white, formed and succeeded in entertaining Americans and Europeans.

Further research shows Dr. Jones came from a family of educators, with an uncle who started a school back in 1846. When Dr. Jones learned about a county in Mississippi that had an eighty percent illiteracy rate, he moved there from Missouri and eventually started Piney Woods Country Life School.

Resources: See the Teacher’s Guide here. Listen to their story on NPR. Listen to them play! Dare you not to boogie!

For more of today’s book reviews from May 15, 2015, go to author Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book page.

http://www.npr.org/2011/03/22/134766828/americas-sweethearts-an-all-girl-band-that-broke-racial-boundaries

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The King Cake Baby & Mr. Bingle

The King Cake Baby & Mr. Bingle

What do the King Cake Baby & Mr. Bingle have in common? They are both New Orleans icons. And about the same age too.

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Every baby boomer who grew up in New Orleans visited Mr. Bingle in the Maison Blanche window then went inside the store to take a photo with Santa himself. Credit for the creation of this Christmas icon goes to Mr. Emile Alline who was the window-display manager at the store. Back in 1948, a French Quarter puppeteer named Edwin H.Isentrout was hired to promote the little snowman named Mr. Bingle and advertise the MB franchise. Between the storefront window display, TV commercials, and visits to other store locations, the image became a New Orleans icon.

We can thank Daniel Entringer, Sr. for popularizing the icon of the small plastic baby known as the king cake baby hidden inside king cakes.. He was a cheesemaker from Wisconsin who bought McKenzie’s Pastry Shoppes from Henry McKenzie in 1932. At one time, McKenzie’s bakery was the most popular bakery in New Orleans offering sweets such as buttermilk drops, blackout cakes, petit fours, eclairs, and chocolate turtles to name a few, in addition to their famous king cakes. When a Carnival Krewe named the Twelfth Night Revelers asked Entringer to make king cakes for them, they supplied their own trinkets to hide inside the cake as custom dictated.  However, according to the history told, a friend of Entringer found a plastic baby in a French Quarter shop back in the 1940’s and suggested he use it. The baker started using the plastic baby then and created the tradition that continues to this very day. A king cake without a baby hidden inside is simply a cinnamon roll!

King Cakes are so popular in New Orleans, they have their very own Festival! Check out the King Cake Festival website here. Check out their facebook page for updates.

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Whitney Plantation: Louisiana’s Bitter Legacy

Whitney Plantation: Louisiana’s Bitter Legacy

In the fall of 2014, Whitney Plantation will be opened as a Louisiana history museum. A brief history behind the plantation shows it’s importance in the history of Louisiana itself.

A man named ”Ambroise Heidel” immigrated to Louisiana from Germany in 1721 with his wife and children. By 1752 Ambroise bought the land tract located 35 miles north of New Orleans in St. John the Baptist Parish and it became “Habitation Haydel”. It started as an indigo plantation. Later it became one of the largest sugar plantations in the territory. By 1790 Heidel’s son, Jean Jacques Haydel Sr., commissioned the building of the Creole style plantation house. The name was changed to Whitney after the plantation was sold in 1867 after the Civil War. The site is now dedicated to educating the public about slavery along the River Road.

The current owner, John Cummings, a trial lawyer turned preservationist, has spent more than $6 million of his own money on the restoration and supplies to tell the story about those slaves brought to the plantation from the coast of Africa and their descendants who toiled and lived there. When Mitch Landrieu visited as Lt governor, he compared Whitney Plantation compared the experience to visiting the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. “The whole state of Louisiana really is a museum,” he said. http://vimeo.com/8979392

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Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story of the Underground Railroad

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story of the Underground Railroad
Henry’s Freedom Box
A True Story of the Underground Railroad
 
Written by: Ellen Levine
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
Scholastic Press, January 2007, Historical Fiction
Suitable for ages: 7-10
 
Themes/Topics: Biography and Autobiography, Slavery, Underground Railroad,  Abolition, Determination and Perseverance
 
Brief Synopsis: Henry is born a slave one day around 1830 in the state of Virginia. But Henry does not know his birthdate or his age.  As a child, Henry is sold and taken away from his mother and family. Many years later, his wife and young children are also taken away from him and sold. Henry doesn’t know his birthday, but knows one day he wants freedom. Through heartbreak and time Henry finds others who want the same for him and he is able to break free from bondage.
 
Opening pages:  “Henry Brown wasn’t sure how old he was. Henry was a slave. And slaves weren’t allowed to know their birthdays.
 
Henry and his brothers and sisters worked in the big house where the master lived. Henry’s master had been good to Henry and his family.
 
But Henry’s mother knew things could change. “Do you see those leaves blowing in the wind? They are torn from the trees like slave children are torn from their families.”
 
Why I like this book: Freedom. It’s something children desire very early in life. Humans want choice and independence. It’s what Henry wants but he is born in a time when his freedom is not allowed. This Caldecott Honor Book introduces kids to a very complex time in US history through a biography loosely based on a true story of a slave named Henry “Box’’ Brown.  Henry is sold to another master as a young child but tries to make the best of a terrible situation. He marries and has a family of his own and they mean the world to him. Then his wife and children are sold and Henry is devastated. Henry then enlists the help of an abolitionist and together they make a plan to mail Henry through the Underground Railroad to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and freedom. Kadir Nelson’s illustrations are wonderfully supportive of the story. Readers of all ages can identify with Henry when he is accepting of his situation, when he is happy and when he is filled with despair. And all readers will certainly want for Henry what he wants for himself- freedom.
 
Resources:
http://library.echs.edwrds.k12.il.us/book-awards/information-contained-on-pages/bluestem-resources/Henrys%20Freedom%20Box.pdf
http://vimeo.com/20964070
https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/lesson-plan/henrys-freedom-box-lesson-plan
 
henry
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2014 King Cake Festival Winners!!

2014 King Cake Festival Winners!!

2014 King Cake Festival Winners! Congratulations!

Best Traditional King Cake: Bakers Dozen
Best Filled King Cake: Mr. RONNIE’S FAMOUS HOT DONUTS
Best Savory King Cake: Loretta’s Authentic Pralines
Best Non-Traditional King Cake: Ye Olde Bake Shoppe
Best Baby: Thee Heavenly Donut
Best Looking King Cake: Bakers Dozen

People’s Choice:
3rd Place: Maurice French Pastries
2nd Place: Manny Randazzo’s
1st Place Haydel’s Bakery

kc fest haydel winner

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Later Tartan Gator: A New Orleans Tale

Later Tartan Gator: A New Orleans Tale
Later Tartan Gator: A New Orleans Tale
Written by: Lorraine Johnston
Illustrated by: Preston Asevedo
Mascot Books, April 2013, Fiction
Suitable for ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: kindness, courage, community, cultural awareness
 
Brief Synopsis: An alligator at the New Orleans Audubon Zoo gets into colorful trouble when Scottish tourists ignore the sign “DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS AT ANY TIME”. A little girl comes to the rescue through the help of local shopkeepers.
 
Opening pages:  “If you’re ever going to visit Audubon Zoo, remember this story, it is quite true. There is an old alligator who sits in his pen. He’s got quite a story, it all started when…”
 
Why I like this book: Later Tartan Gator: A New Orleans Tale written by Scottish author Lorraine Johnston weaves the love of her own culture with the culture of New Orleans through her choice of setting and characters. Themes and topics addressed are valuable teaching tools. The alligator learns there are consequences when rules are broken. A little girl shows kindness and courage by her desire and actions to help him solve his problem. And through cooperation with a community chocolate shop, the little girl helps the alligator return to his original self.

 LTG

 

 

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Queen Punxsutawney Phyllis, Krewe of Marmotte

Queen Punxsutawney Phyllis, Krewe of Marmotte

Punxsutawney Phyllis knows that girl groundhogs can do anything boy groundhogs can do. And she proves it to her Uncle Punxsutawney Phil when she is able to make an accurate prediction on Groundhogs Day.

And you know what else Phyllis knows? Girl Groundhogs rule! That’s right, Phyllis went down to New Orleans this month during Carnival, ate a piece of King Cake and got the baby. Now Phyllis is the Queen of the Krewe of Marmotte (that’s groundhog in French)!

You go girl!

Laissez les bon temps roulez!

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Punxsutawney Phyllis by Susan Leonard Hill, Illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler

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Louisiana culture celebrated on Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Louisiana culture celebrated on Multicultural Children’s Book Day

In celebration of the first annual Multicultural Children’s Book Day I choose to highlight “Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras La Chatte Noire” written by Todd-Michael St. Pierre and illustrated by Diane Millsap. The book is about a cat who lives in Jackson Square in the Vieux Carré (French Quarter) neighborhood of New Orleans. The cat searches for a friend and visits many historical spots in the quarter and around the city. The book is written in English and French. What a lovely tribute to the city of New Orleans!

Happy reading y’all!

Mardi Gras La Chatte Noire

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Multicultural Book Day is January 27, 2014

Multicultural Book Day is January 27, 2014

One day there may no longer be a need to have a ”day” to remind people to read books about the diversity within our own country and the world. But until that day comes, I invite you to celebrate Multicultural Book Day. Yay!

Why you ask? Meera Sriram lists 10 reasons in her blog post. http://www.incultureparent.com/2012/07/10-reasons-to-read-multicultural-books-to-your-kids/

And who can argue with what Mahatma Gandhi said, No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive. Diversity is all around us to embrace.

Anyone looking for titles can check out the sites below. Some of my favorite books are about different cultures found here in the USA and around the world. Read a few, or read a lot, and maybe some will become favorites of yours too.

http://www.pragmaticmom.com/multicultural-books-for-children/

http://www.rif.org/us/literacy-resources/booklists/multicultural-books.htm

http://www.reading.org/General/Publications/blog/BlogSinglePost/rty/2013/04/17/multicultural-books#.UuBfff0o6os

Multicultural Book Day

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The 1st King Cake Festival

The 1st King Cake Festival

What do you need in the most festive city in the USA? Another festival! The 1st Annual King Cake Festival coming this February. It’s a family friendly festival too. Live performances, kid’s games, stroller fun run and of course a King Cake competition. And it’s FREE.

Wish I could be there with y’all. Have fun! Eat King Cake. AND DON’T FORGET THE BABY!  http://www.ochsner.org/king-cake-festival/

KC festival

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It’s Still Christmas Y’all!

It’s Still Christmas Y’all!

While most of us celebrate January 1st as the New Year, according to the Catholic Church calendar it’s still Christmas! The Twelve Days of Christmas is the period between December 25th, Christmas Day and the Feast of the Epiphany on January 5th or 6th.

Just about everyone knows the song, the Twelve Days of Christmas. If not, the first stanza should spark your memory, ”On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree.” Although Catholics link the song to a clever way to teach Catholicism when Puritans banned the English from celebrating Christmas and the Catholic faith back in the 16th century, such claims are speculative due to lack of evidence. However faith is typically used as an anchor to deduce that the possibility does indeed exist. Researchers have actually traced the genesis of the song regardless of one’s belief about the reason behind its origin.

The song first appeared in Mirth without Mischief, a book published in England in the year 1780. Daft Days where the King of Fools reigned was part of the Christmas and pagan winter solstice celebrations in medieval England. Pranks and causing mischief were common. The tune to the song believed to date back to France. Turns out the song, filled with verses that appear random, was a ”memory and forfeits” game for children in the 18th century. A very old version of ”I went to the market and bought…” played today to help children develop memory and concentration. This game became popular to play during parties on the 12th night of Christmas.

Today, the lack of celebration of the Twelve Days of Christmas really does speak to the secularization of Christmas. Advent is better known and more celebrated as the build up to Christmas Day. It is the time of preparation to celebrate the coming birth of Jesus. But even Advent calendars are more about receiving than giving. Perhaps the reason for the complete Christmas season has been lost in the commercialization of Christmas. In accordance to the liturgical year, the Twelve Days of Christmas is the period after the birth of Jesus and a part of the Christmas celebration. At one time, over these 12 days people celebrated with merriment, spent time with family, gave charity to the poor and prepared to celebrate the life of Jesus here on earth. It just seems these days as Christmas is marketed earlier and earlier (before Halloween!), it’s easy to feel Christmas ends the morning presents are opened.

One tradition my son makes sure we don’t forget takes place on Christmas Eve. That’s the day we put up our Christmas tree, watch old Christmas movies, and tell stories about ornaments as they are hung with care. I guess in our own way, that’s how we celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas that begins on Christmas Eve. No one is able to run away from the commercialism of Christmas, and our family certainly participates in the shopping frenzy. But traditions are reminders of why we do the things we do. As long as these traditions continue we will remember.

Happy New Year to all! Wishing you joy, peace, and happiness in 2014!

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