“New Orleans Mother Goose” by Ryan Adam. Pelican Publishing, 2014. $17.99.
Marita’s Gentry’s gorgeous illustrations make New Orleans jump off the pages in this fun take on various New Orleans themed-nursery rhymes.
Ryan Adam takes readers on journeys throughout New Orleans and Louisiana with each rhyme focusing on something we all love about the Crescent City. From snowballs to Mardi Gras and crawfish to red beans and rice, this book is a great memory builder for any child!
— Anna Guerra, Denham Springs
“Some Luck” by Jane Smiley. Knopf, 2014. $26.95.
There are characters that live in your mind when you’re away from the book. They continue conversations about planting, knit sweaters, take walks and go about daily life as you go about yours, like a hummed tune that follows you around all day until you return to the story.
Jane Smiley’s characters — an extended farming family in the early to mid 1900s — did that.
Over the few days this book was devoured, the Langdons and their relatives came with me like familiar ghosts, their presence sometimes a comfort and, depending where I left off, sometimes like an itch that needed scratching, satisfied only when I came back to the book. Smiley’s introduction says this book is the first in a trilogy.
Don’t make us wait too long, Jane.
— Beth Colvin, firstname.lastname@example.org
“Madam: A Novel of New Orleans” by Cari Lynn and Kellie Martin. Prime, 2014. $15.
“Madam” is set in 1897 New Orleans and centered around Mary Deubler, a prostitute in Venus Alley, a seedy area of the city that would soon be formally incorporated as the official red-light district known as Storyville.
Mary is a well-developed character, perhaps due in part to the fact that she is based on the real-life Josie Arlington, one of the future Storyville’s most infamous madams.
We follow her trajectory from her time as Mary, the impoverished streetwalker with dreams for a better life for herself and her family to her re-emergence as Josie, the refined and glamorous doyenne of one of the city’s so-called “sporting establishments.”
The authors certainly capture the raucous environment of the Big Easy, replete with salacious details of the seedy underworld scene, licentious politicians, and cameos from colorful notables, including Louis Armstrong and “Jelly Roll” Morton.
Having grown up in Louisiana, I had a few quibbles with some of the setting details: jambalaya does not have beans in it as the authors mention in one scene; it’s a café au lait that they serve at Café du Monde, not a “coffee au laits”; and we call them crawfish down here, never crayfish.
Shudder. Overall though, Madam is an entertaining read.
— Louise Hilton, Baton Rouge