Just in time for Halloween, children’s book author Kat Pigott, of Springfield, has released her latest creation, “Rougarou Stew,” a fanciful tale about Louisiana’s legendary swamp creature that should help entertain the very young as they prepare for the season when ghosts, goblins and strange creatures become a part of their fantasy world.
“Rougarou Stew” is a rhyming tale about a shadowy swamp-dwelling creature that has been part of Louisiana’s French based folklore that stretching back to France and later to Canada over the centuries. Pigott’s recounting of the Rougarou story is written for very young audiences.
The tale, as told by Pigott, builds from one page to the next and offers a surprise ending when a Rougarou Stew is cooked. A feature unique to Pigott’s book is that an actual recipe for Rougarou Stew is included at the end of the book.
The book starts with a description of the Rougarou as, “A monster that will make you shiver with fright and scream, run and tumble away in your flight.” Additionally, he is described as, “Incredibly tall with dark, tangled hair, large red glowing eyes and huge teeth like a bear.” From there, the story builds as three children learn how to first confront the Rougarou and then create Rougarou Stew. For that task, the children are instructed to, “First dig a big pit, add a large iron pot, add gator and crawfish and get it real hot.”
As the story continues, the children learn to confound the Rougarou by placing 13 rocks around the pit. This puzzles the Rougarou because folklore contends that he cannot count past twelve.
The book concludes with the Rougarou being pushed into the pot, but ends with this warning, “The spell it was cast when he fell in the stew and if he crawls out, then the joke is on you. You will get lucky if the curse does not stick, it looks like that rascal has played a big trick.” Thus the myth of the Rougarou lives on with the final passage written to keep youngsters aware of scary monsters, “But look all around you-the stew is a curse. You messed with dat magic and just made it worse. For now there are others, more monsters to dread. And now you are one as you climb into bed. And how you will fix it is yet to be said. But one thing’s for certain-you have been well fed.”
The book is lavishly illustrated by Mason Sibley, who has collaborated with Pigott on earlier books. Sibley, a student at Southeastern Louisiana University, has been creating and illustrating his own original stories since he was eight years old. His vivid illustrations add to the tale’s mysterious content.
He lives in Ponchatoula with his family. Sibley was named Student of the Year and was involved in the Gifted Art Program during high school. His senior year he earned first place in the Congressional Art Competition and his work will be displayed in the U.S. Capitol.
Pigott earlier published three well-received books. The first two, “Green Dinosaur Pancakes,” and “Se You, Green Dinosaur,” were then followed by, “The Flying Horses of City Park,” a study of the historic carousel in New Orleans’ City Park.
Perhaps it was only natural for Pigott to become the author of children’s books because she related that as a child she would cut out photos of members of her family and group them in stories about her family’s adventures. She said that after a career that included time as a caterer and event planner and later as an education coordinator for a United Way Agency, she finally turned to writing when she moved to Louisiana from her native, Savannah, Georgia, about 25 years ago.
She says of her writing, “It just comes out of me. … I have really always had an urge to write and I have found joy in creating children’s books. I try to give a teaching opportunity in my books. Telling the story of the Rougarou helps to preserve a part of our Louisiana culture. The mention of the swamps, the experiences of the children in the outdoors and the ingredients that go into a delicious Louisiana stew is a way for very young children to learn more about the state in which they live.”
“Rougarou Stew" has been well received by her peers and several highly complementary reviews of the book have been written. Pigott is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Zona Rosa Writer’s Group.
For the curious, Rougarou Stew appears to be a typical Louisiana themed dish. Among the ingredients are alligator meat, pounded and cubed, a dozen oysters, crawfish tails, crabmeat, along with peppers, onions, garlic, stewed tomatoes, seafood stock and seasonings.
Pigott was the star attraction at a Story Time session held on Oct. 6, at the South Branch of the Livingston Parish Library System, a performance that followed a similar gathering at the Denham-Springs-Walker Branch of the library system on Sept. 28. At the South Branch Story Time she captured the attention of more than a dozen young children and parents who learned about the Rougarou. The children attending the session also participated in a crafts project that included making Halloween masks. They then participated in a scavenger hunt.
Pigott will visit all branches of the Livingston Parish Library System with the following sessions scheduled: Wednesday, Oct. 13, the Main Branch in Livingston; Wednesday, Oct. 20, at the Albany-Springfield Branch; and Wednesday, Oct. 27, at the Watson Branch. These sessions are offered at 10:30 a.m.
On Oct. 16, a book release party will be held at the Red Stick Spice Co. in Baton Rouge. She said that a Rougarou Stew will be cooked for that occasion. The first session, set from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. is sold out but she added that reservations can still be made for the second session, 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.