Monday, December 22, 2008

Le Bon Temps: The Twelve Days of Christmas in Louisiana by Jean Cassels

Part Christmas story, part Louisiana guidebook, New Orleans author Jean Cassels' The Twelve Days of Christmas in Louisiana (Twelve Days of Christmas, State By State) has hit upon a winning format for a love letter to her state which makes every one of us dream of hot beignets with honey.

The story begins with an invitation from Cousin Rosalie to Cousin Paul to spend the twelve days of the holiday in New Orleans with her family.

Dear Paul,

I'm sending you a ticket to come visit us for the twelve days of Christmas. This is a special time in Louisiana. Christmas doesn't really end until twelfth night (January 6 in New Orleans). That's when Dad and I always take down the tree and Twelfth Night is the start of Carnival, with really fun parades and costumes.

In the double-page spreads which follow for each day of the twelve, Paul writes home to describe the events and places he enjoys with Rosalie, all famous Louisiana experiences--the causeway across Lake Pontchartrain and one state bird, the brown pelican in a cypress tree, two blue-eyed white 'gators at the Audubon Zoo, three marsh ducks at the White Kitchen Eagle Preserve, four river boats on a excursion up the wide Mississippi, and five golden horns in a jazz band parading down Esplanade Avenue.

Paul also takes in the six ghosts at the haunted Myrtle Plantation, seven treasure maps at the museum of privateer Jean LaFitte, eight bottles of red sauce at the tobasco factory on Avery Island, nine crawfish in Cajun country, ten agile amphibians at the Rayne Frog Festival, eleven buzzing state insects making honey for the beignets, and twelve strands of sparkling beads thrown by the trolley-riding Phunny Phorty Phellows who officially begin Carnival.

Lynne Cravath's busy, humorous illustrations spread across the pages to provide plenty of local color, even spilling over onto the clever endpapers in which posters for Wynton Marsalis, Satchmo, Paul Prudhomme, Truman Capote, and other Louisiana luminaries are plastered on a busy corner building. The author thoughtfully includes an appendix with all the basic state facts (capital, state flower, state bird, etc.) and a list of Louisiana notables--from Dr. Michael DeBakey to Terry Bradshaw and Fats Domino--and their contribution to American life. This book is a trip--a visit to a fascinating chunk of America, fun to visit and fun to read about.

Laissez le bon temps roulez!

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  • Thanks not only for this suggestion but for this blog. I have a 10 year old son who loves books and I usually have a hard time finding books he likes. I find the market is getting better (and its probably even better than I know) but so many books, especially series, seemed to be geared towards girls.

    Anyway, just wanted to let you know I appreciate the blog very much.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:02 AM  

  • Dear Symphony,
    Thank you for the appreciation.

    Way back more than a year ago I recommended the Boy/Girl Battle series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. My nine-year-old grandson has just started reading these books voraciously.

    The first two are THE BOYS START THE WAR and THE GIRLS GET EVEN. The final sequel (#11 OR #12 in the series) is WHO WON THE WAR? The girls in one family and the boys in another set out to top each other's pranks with very funny results. The books are very well written (Naylor is a multiple Newbery winner for the SHILOH books), with good characters and good values, despite the humorous pranks the two families of kids play on each other.

    If he hasn't already found them, give these a try.

    By Blogger GTC, at 8:04 PM  

  • Thanks for the suggestion. We'll look for them at our next library visit.

    Have you ever thought of having your labels on the side so readers can easily find an age range or theme? Not telling you how to run your blog of course, but I noticed while trying to search for a book for a 3 year old boy that there was no way for me to just click on a link.

    Thanks again! And I sent the link to my friends.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:25 PM  

  • Blogger controls where the subject tags appear--at the end of the text in this case.

    You can search by Age or Grade range; you'll notice there is always one in the subjects at the bottom--e.g., (Preschool-Grade 2) or (Ages 1-4) You would have to have a range of ages or grades that matches ones I've entered.

    By Blogger GTC, at 8:04 PM  

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