New Orleans native Taylor Dupré, a 2014 graduate of Zachary High School, can add published author to her résumé.
The 19-year-old Southeastern Louisiana University education major visited Sarah Charbonnet’s second-grade class at Rollins Place Elementary on March 23 to read her book “Gumbo on the Bayou.”
Written by Dupré at age 16 while taking the college-level Z-Star course, the Cajun tale is about two alligators named Boudreaux and Thibodeaux, who live on the bayou in Louisiana.
Boudreaux asks Thibodeaux for some food, and when Thibodeaux refuses, Boudreaux comes up with a clever plan to trick his friend into making a delicious gumbo.
“The assignment required students to take a classic fairy tale and rewrite it as a modern story with an ethnic twist,” Zachary High Z-Star instructor Debby Lowery said.
Z-Star, a class for juniors and seniors who want to become teachers, was the perfect avenue for Dupre, who at age 14 was writing plays and taking drama classes.
Her tale was based on the folk story “Stone Soup” about hungry strangers convincing local townspeople to share their food.
“I didn’t even know how to make gumbo when I wrote it. I had to call my grandfather and ask him what ingredients go into making a pot of gumbo,” Dupré said.
Dupré said she wrote the story in a night and earned an A on the project. Later, at the suggestion of a friend, she sent her story to American Star Books, which agreed to illustrate and publish it as a children’s book.
Since then, Dupré has been invited to read “Gumbo” to children in Zachary and around the state.
“It was suggested that as a fun way to get youth involved, I would bring props with me, ingredients from the book, and have students volunteer adding the ingredients into a gumbo pot as I named them in the story,” said Dupré, who now travels around with a pot, a plastic crawfish, salt, Tony’s seasoning, okra, a bag of flour and a few other gumbo requirements.
“The students seemed to really listen and stay engaged throughout the story,” said Yolanda Williams, director of personnel for Zachary schools.
Dupre is in her second year at Southeastern and works at Global Wildlife Center in Folsom. She enjoys working with children as well as creative writing in her spare time.
Her plans, however, do not include teaching creative writing but math or science instead.
“I do plan to write another children’s book, though,” Dupré said.
Zachary Superintendent Scott Devillier, who was present at the reading, said the school district purchased each of Charbonnet’s students a copy of “Gumbo on the Bayou,” which Dupré autographed for the students.