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Louisiana Center for the Book Presents Annual Black History Month Program

 BATON ROUGE, La. – The Louisiana Center for the Book in the State Library of Louisiana will celebrate Black History Month with “Gather at the River: A Tribute to Ernest J. Gaines” on Wednesday, February 19, from 12:00 - 1:30 p.m. in the Seminar Center of the State of Louisiana, located at 701 North 4th Street, Baton Rouge. This program, celebrating the life and work of Gaines, will be hosted by his close friend, Gaines Center board member, and two-time Louisiana Poet Laureate Darrell Bourque and will feature several authors, poets, and others with close personal connections to Gaines reading favorite passages from his work.

 “Louisiana is arguably the most diverse state in the nation, and we value our rich African-American history and culture,” said Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser. “When we lost Ernest Gaines this past November, we lost a state treasure. The contributions of Ernest Gaines have significantly shaped Louisiana’s literary heritage.”

 Gaines was born and raised in Point Coupee Parish, which serves as the backdrop for many of his works, including the Pulitzer Prize nominated and National Book Critics Circle Award winning novel A Lesson Before Dying. He went on to be nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature, have a literary excellence award named in his honor, and be chosen as the first recipient of the annual Louisiana Writer Award in 2000 presented by the State Library’s Louisiana Center for the Book.

 “The arc of Gaines’s novels and dramatizations of them, such as The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and A Lesson Before Dying, as well as his own life lived through the civil rights movement, provide lessons in Black history for America,” observed Rebecca Hamilton, State Librarian of Louisiana. “An enduring legacy of Gaines is the impact his work will continue to have in raising our country’s awareness of the racial and social divides that remain as important today as ever.”

 Program participants will include Marcia Gaudet, Professor of English Emerita and founder and board president of the Ernest J. Gaines Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette; Cheylon Woods, Director of the Gaines Center; Louisiana State Senator Karen Carter Peterson; and Gaines’s wife, Dianne Gaines, among others.

The presentation is free and open to the public, and attendees are welcome to bring a brown bag lunch. Registration is not required. For a full list of participants see below.

A Tribute to Ernest J. Gaines


Darrell Bourque, poet and Gaines Center board member

Tony Chassion III, writer and former student of Dr. Gaines

Hollis Conway, two-time Olympic medalist and Director of Community Development for Lafayette’s Consolidated Government

Dianne Gaines, lawyer and wife of Ernest J. Gaines

Marcia Gaudet, Professor Emerita and founder and board president of Ernest J. Gaines Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Phebe Hayes, former Dean of General Studies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Gaines Center board member, and founder of New Iberia Parish African American Historical Society

Dr. Ernest Kinchen, Lafayette-based physician and general surgeonKaren

Carter Peterson, Louisiana State Senator

Mona Lisa Saloy, poet, folklorist, and creative writing professor at Dillard University

Gerald Singleton, veteran and life-long reader of Gaines’s works

Michelle Vallot, lawyer, entrepreneur, and president of Zydeco Foods, LLC

Cheylon Woods, archivist and director of the Ernest J. Gaines Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette


Rebecca Hamilton
State Library of Louisiana
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Julio Guichard
Office of the Lieutenant Governor
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Introducing Books to Inspire a Love of Reading in Louisiana's Young People

BATON ROUGE, La.– Entering its 20th year, the Louisiana Young Readers’ Choice (LYRC) Awards Program is excited to announce the 2020-2021 nominated title lists for grades 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. Since the program’s first list in 1999 over 378,000 students have read the recommended titles and voted for their favorites, reading more than 1.2 million books in the process.

Every year thousands of students from elementary to high school age vote on their favorite book from a list of titles curated by librarians serving on LYRC committees from across the state. Many students cast their ballot on real voting machines supplied by the Secretary of State’s Voter Outreach Division.

“The Louisiana Readers’ Choice Awards is just one of many phenomenal programs offered through the State Library which inspires a love of reading among the young people of our state,” said Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser.

The 2020-2021 nominated title list includes many award winning authors such as Elizabeth Acevedo, winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, the Michael L. Printz Award, and the Pura Belpré Award; Edgar Award winner Courtney Summer, Walter Dean Myers Honor and Newbery Honor recipient Veera Hiranandani; Pura Belpré Honor Book Author Pablo Cartaya; and Golden Kite Award winner Jarrett J. Krosoczka, to name only a few.  From fiction to nonfiction, picture books to novels, science fiction to romance, historical to contemporary, these carefully chosen booklists cover a variety of interests and genres, so there is something for every reader.

“The titles on these lists are selected by professional school and public librarians from across the state with decades of experience working with children and children’s literature,” said State Librarian Rebecca Hamilton. “The nominated titles represent a variety of interests and viewpoints, but what unites the titles is that they are high interest. These are books that kids will love and that will inspire them to keep reading beyond the classroom walls, helping to create a culture of literacy in Louisiana, all of which is a key part of our mission here at the State Library.” 

The Louisiana Readers’ Choice is a reading enrichment program of the Louisiana Center for the Book, housed in the State Library of Louisiana. Its mission is to foster a love of reading in the children of Louisiana by motivating them to participate in the recognition of outstanding books. According to a 2017 Kids Count report, 74% of Louisiana’s fourth graders were not reading at a proficient level. The Louisiana Center for the Book and the State Library of Louisiana believes fostering a lifelong love of reading among Louisianans will contribute to the state’s overall economic growth and quality of life.

To view the 2020-2021 Louisiana Young Readers’ Choice Awards Program nominated titles list, see the attached document or click here. For information about the program including previous winners, how to participate and additional resources such as free bookmarks, posters, and study guides, please visit the Louisiana Young Readers’ Choice Program webpage.


Rebecca Hamilton
State Library of Louisiana
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Julio Guichard
Office of the Lieutenant Governor
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Announcing an Exciting Lineup of Events for Foodies and Music Lovers


BATON ROUGE, La. –  The 16th Annual Louisiana Book Festival will feature cookbook and foodways authors, as well as music historians and scholars, live Louisiana music, and more on Saturday, November 2, from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. throughout Capitol Park in Downtown Baton Rouge.


“Louisiana doesn’t throw any type of party without two things: food and music,” said Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser. “The Louisiana Book Festival is no exception, offering a full festival experience that will truly Feed Your Soul.”


“Each year, we are proud to celebrate Louisiana’s unique culture and heritage, and we can’t do that without food and music involved,” said State Librarian Rebecca Hamilton. “Attendees always take advantage of all the fun offered at the festival. Best of all, just like our panel presentations, book talks, and other programs, there is absolutely no charge to listen to world-class musicians performing on the Entertainment Stage, or to sample the food prepared in our Cooking Demonstration Tent.”


Cooking demonstrations will take place in the Cooking Demonstration Tent from 10 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.  They will feature Molly Kimball with The Eat Fit Cookbook: Chef Inspired Recipes for the Home, Jack and Joe Walker with Growing Up Cajun: Recipes and Stories from the Slap Ya Mama Family, and Brittany and Pam Wattenbarger with The New Southern Cookbook: Classic Family Recipes and Modern Twists on Old Favorites. Chef Joshua Hebert, the 2018 Country Roads Magazine “Small Town Chefs” Award Winner and 2018 Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off Runner Up, will prepare a recipe from the Junior League of Baton Rouge’s River Road Recipes: The Textbook of Louisiana Cuisine.


Foodways book talks will include discussions ranging from New Orleans cuisine to American classics known around the world. Each of these programs will take place in the Louisiana State Capitol. Authors include Liz Williams, founder of the National Food & Beverage Foundation, with Unique Eats and Eateries of New Orleans and Christine Ward with her book American Advertising Cookbooks: How Corporations Taught Us to Love SPAM, Bananas, and Jell-O. Popular Louisiana native Ken Wells returns with Gumbo Life: Tales from the Roux Bayou. Zella Palmer, joined by Liz Williams, will discuss her book, Recipes and Remembrances of Fair Dillard; and Monique Boutte Christina presents Let’s Party at Mulate’s: The Original Cajun Restaurant, New Orleans, Louisiana.


John Coykendall, a celebrity of farm-to-table cuisine with locally sourced, organic, and heirloom foods, shares his story of Preserving Our Roots: My Journey to Save Seeds and Stories, recently featured in Garden & Gun Magazine, with Louisiana author and documentary filmmaker Christina Melton. The book presents a narrative of the Tennessee native and master gardener’s visits to Washington Parish since 1973.


Literary music highlights will include discussions at both the Louisiana State Capitol and the Capitol Park Museum. Authors participating will discuss various genres including jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, punk, and the Beatles. Programming includes Clive Wilson discussing Time of My Life: A Jazz Journey from London to New Orleans; Steven Y. Landry with Beatles Day in New Orleans; and Kembrew McLeod with Downtown Pop Underground: New York City and the Literary Punks, Renegade Artists, DIY Filmmakers, Mad Playwrights, and Rock ‘n’ Roll Glitter Queens who Revolutionized Culture. The punk-rock feminist movement of the early ’90’s is captured in the Young Adult debut novel by Elizabeth Keenan, who will appear with other Young Adult authors in the State Library of Louisiana.


It wouldn’t be a festival in Louisiana without a little live music, and the Louisiana Book Festival will feature musical performances in a variety of genres including jazz, alternative, blues, rockabilly, and punk rock. The music sets scheduled on the Entertainment Stage from 10: 15 a.m. to 4 p.m. will include performances by WBR Jazz Combo, Ben Bell, Smokehouse and Mamie Porter, Monday Night Social, The Unnaturals, and Your Mom.


Cooking demonstrations, book discussions, and panel presentations will be followed by book signings in the Barnes & Noble tent, where attendees will have the opportunity to meet featured presenters and have their books signed and personalized.


For a full list of authors, information about their books, and a downloadable schedule, please visit LouisianaBookFestival.org.



Rebecca Hamilton
State Library of Louisiana
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Julio Guichard
Office of the Lieutenant Governor
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Plenty of Offerings for Young Readers and Families at the 16th Annual Event

BATON ROUGE, La. – The Louisiana Book Festival announces an exciting line-up of activities and programs for young people from toddlers to middle graders to teens during its 16th year as the Pelican State’s premier literary event. The festival, free and open to the public, returns on Saturday, November 2, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Baton Rouge’s Capitol Park and will feature author talks and book signings, a special Teen Headquarters, storytellers, games, crafts, face painting, balloon animals, live musical performances, and special appearances by Llama Llama and Taco Dragon.


“The Louisiana Book Festival is not just for adults. Young people are invited to come to the festival and meet, interact with, and get their books signed and personalized by some of the most popular and renowned children’s and young adult authors in the country,” said Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser. “It is our hope that the book festival will hopefully inspire the next generation of great Louisiana writers, and they will come back and meet with the future generations at the book festival.”


“Teaching our young people to be interested in reading from an early age will help to keep our literacy rates up as they are a critical indicator of the economic, cultural, and overall health of any community,” said State Librarian Rebecca Hamilton. “The Louisiana Book Festival not only offers an entertaining festival experience for families of all ages, but it encourages our young readers to become life-long readers. Whether you are coming to see your favorite author, or to discover your next great read, the Louisiana Book Festival is a must for your family fall calendar!”  


Authors featured at this year’s festival include Adib Khorram, winner of both the 2019 William C. Morris Award and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature from the American Library Association with his novel Darius the Great Is Not Okay. Also appearing at the festival is the popular author Scott Reintgen, author of the Nyxia Triad, a 2019-2020 Project Lit Book Club selection, and Saving Fable.  


Middle grade authors include Leslie C. Youngblood with Love Like Sky, a 2020-2021 LYRC finalist, and Nick Courage, author of Storm Blown, as well as Jasmine Warga, Other Words for Home, and Mariama Lockington, For Black Girls like Me, both 2019-2020 Project Lit Book Club selections. Other featured authors include Louisiana author and artist Alexis Braud with her chapter book Cordelia’s Key and the picture book The Hungry Little Gator, and Johnette Downing with Spooky Second Line.


This year, the festival is celebrating the Little Free Library 10th Anniversary with a children’s program featuring Miranda Paul, author of the recently released Little Libraries, Big Heroes, with special guest New Orleanian Nikki Leali, one of the heroes featured in the book. Alton Carter will receive the Louisiana Teen Readers’ Choice award for Aging Out, and present his newest book, The Boy Who Survived: A True Story of Hope and Resilience.


These are but a few of more than fifty books for young readers to be featured at the festival. Other offerings returning this year include the Young Readers Pavilion, where children and parents can enjoy children’s authors, storytelling performances, costumed children’s book characters for selfie opportunities, book-related crafts, face painting, and balloon animals; and the Teen HQ, featuring bestselling and award-winning young adult authors and activities.


For a full list of authors and schedule, please visit www.LouisianaBookFestival.org.


Rebecca Hamilton
State Library of Louisiana
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Julio Guichard
Office of the Lieutenant Governor
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BATON ROUGE, La.– The 2019 Louisiana Book Festival is seeking enthusiastic volunteers to join in the celebration for an insider’s experience of the festival. Hundreds of volunteers are needed in a variety of capacities, including welcoming presenters, escorting authors, assisting with programs, staffing festival information booths, and more. Those interested in volunteering can find more information about opportunities by visiting www.louisianabookfestival.org/volunteer.html and can sign up using our simple online form. The 16th annual Louisiana Book Festival will be held on Saturday, November 2, from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

“You don’t just have to be a book lover to volunteer for the Louisiana Book Festival. This event has a little bit of everything for everybody, from great music and food to outstanding literature for adults and children,” said Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser. “I am always proud of the strong volunteer spirit we have in Louisiana, our willingness to always get involved and help out. As this event continues to grow, so does our need for volunteers.”

“The Book Festival relies heavily on volunteers, both the volunteers that have, in many cases, been with us since the beginning and return each year to volunteer their time, as well as new volunteers who sign up each year for this important event. Like so many people, they recognize the importance of supporting an event that showcases Louisiana’s second-to-none literary talent and that contributes to the creation of a culture of literacy in Louisiana,” said State Librarian Rebecca Hamilton.

Festival volunteers who register by October 18 will receive a free 2019 Louisiana Book Fest T-shirt, which this year features Louisiana award-winning artist Rob Guillory’s official Louisiana Book Festival Artwork. Festival coordinators are happy to accommodate groups of friends, family, or organizations who wish to volunteer together.

This free, nationally-recognized literary event will take place in the heart of Baton Rouge in the Louisiana State Capitol, State Library of Louisiana, Capitol Park Museum, and tents on neighboring streets. This year is the 16th anniversary of the book festival and will feature approximately 250 authors and panelists discussing their books and more than 100 programs, including the Young Readers Pavilion, where children and parents will enjoy storytelling and performances; Teen Headquarters, featuring New York Times bestselling and award-winning young adult authors; and a wide variety of book-related activities, exhibitors, and performances.

For complete details on the 2019 Louisiana Book Festival, visit www.louisianabookfestival.org.


Rebecca Hamilton
State Library of Louisiana
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Julio Guichard
Office of the Lieutenant Governor
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Louisiana Book Festival announces schedule for annual pre-festival event

BATON ROUGE, La. — The Louisiana Book Festival is excited to announce the instructors for the 2019 WordShops – half-day writing workshops on a variety of topics to take place at the State Library of Louisiana in Baton Rouge on Friday, November 1. The courses are designed for people writing fiction or nonfiction, and are appropriate for writers of all levels of experience.

"It's always exciting to celebrate the rich literary history of our great state. These WordShops are just the kickoff to the 16th Annual Louisiana Book Festival," said Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser. "The WordShops, offered ahead of the extraordinary Louisiana Book Festival, are for anyone who enjoys books and good conversation."

"If you've ever dreamed of becoming a writer, or maybe you've had a manuscript you've been holding onto for years, the WordShops for the 2019 Louisiana Book Festival provide aspiring writers, and those who love reading, an excellent educational experience," said State Librarian Rebecca Hamilton.

The classes, taught by award-winning and bestselling professional authors, will cover a wide range of tools used in honing the writers’ craft, including the most fundamental tool for creating mood, atmosphere, character, and more; ways to plumb one’s own experience for personal essays; an exploration of mythology in characterization, narrative, and plot; and how to write compelling nonfiction when the historical record (or memory!) is lacking.

The WordShop schedule for Friday, November 1, 2019:

·       9 a.m. – Noon

o   FICTIONBeyond Description: Mining Imagery for Meaning presented by Michael Knight

o   NON-FICTIONUnlocking the Box: Writing Personal Essays presented by Michele Filgate

·       1 p.m. – 4 p.m.

o   FICTIONMyth Making and Breaking: How to Use Old Stories to Write Something New presented by Steph Post

o   NON-FICTIONFinding Your Narrative: At the Crossroads of Memory, Journalism, and History presented by Steve Luxenberg

Registration for each WordShop is $50; for a person attending two WordShops, the cost is $90. Space is limited. Registration and payment are due by October 25. After that date, registrations will be accepted only as space allows.

Please find full WordShop descriptions as well as short author biographies by visiting http://www.louisianabookfestival.org/wordshops.html.

To register, please call 225-219-9503 or visit LouisianaBookFestival.org/WordShops.

For more information on the 2019 Louisiana Book Festival, please visit www.louisianabookfestival.org.


Rebecca Hamilton
State Library of Louisiana
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Julio Guichard
Office of the Lieutenant Governor
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BATON ROUGE, La.– The Louisiana Center for the Book in the State Library of Louisiana is excited to announce the 2019 Louisiana winners of the annual Letters About Literature contest. This year, 242 fourth through twelfth grade Louisiana students wrote personal letters to authors, living or dead, to explain how their work changed the students’ way of thinking about the world or themselves. The winners of the competition hail from Ruston to New Orleans and were inspired by works ranging from fiction to nonfiction, science fiction to realism, and including books by a former president and a Nobel Peace Prize recipient. Please find a full list of winners and honorable mentions below.

Winning students receive $100 for first place, $75 for second place, and $50 for third place, and they will be recognized at the Louisiana Book Festival on Sat., November 2nd, in Baton Rouge, with the first place winners reading their letters there. Louisiana’s first place winners’ entries have been submitted to the Library of Congress for the national competition. To read the winners’ letters and see the names of all the state finalists and their teachers and schools, visit www.state.lib.la.us.

Level I (grades 4 – 6)

1st Place:                            Annika Roberson, Trinity Episcopal School, New Orleans

2nd Place:                           Kelon George, Prairie Elementary School, Lafayette

Level II (grades 7 – 8)

1st Place:                            Phoenix Chapital, Lusher Charter School, New Orleans

2nd Place:                           Magnolia Charlet, Northwestern Middle School, Zachary

3rd Place:                            Lauren Poole, Winfield Middle School, Winnfield

Honorable Mention:         Rain Monroe, Lusher Charter School, New Orleans

Level III (grades 9 – 12)

1st Place:                            Donovan Turpin, Cedar Creek School, Ruston

2nd Place:                           Marie Foret, Ursuline Academy, New Orleans

3rd Place:                            Lauren Shirley, Cedar Creek School, Ruston      

Honorable Mention:         Zachary Nichols, St. Paul’s School, Covington

The 2018-19 Letters About Literature contest for young readers is made possible by a generous grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, with additional support from gifts to the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, which promotes the contest through its affiliate Centers for the Book, state libraries and other organizations.  Funding for prizes is provided by the grant.


Winning Letters

List Of Finalists

2019 Letters About Literature

2019 Winning Letters Level 1-3

First Place Winner Level I, grades 4-6

Annika Roberson, Trinity Episcopal School, New Orleans

Dear Orson Scott Card,

I recently finished your novel Ender’s Game. Your book strongly influenced my perspective of the world. Reading about Battle School was like a spark that set off a barrel full of gunpowder. Ender taught me that everyone, everyone, should be given the same opportunity to learn. Ender also taught me that life choices are limited.

As I was thinking about how Ender didn’t choose to go to Battle School, I noticed that students today don’t have the choice of whether they can go to school or not. I was fortunate to be born to parents who could send my sisters and me to an excellent school. I am also lucky enough, as a female, to have access to school. In Social Studies, we learned that many girls in Sudan and South Sudan must walk several miles a day to retrieve water for their families, so they do not have any time to go to school. But those girls didn’t choose to be born in third-world countries, just like I didn’t choose to be born in a first-world country.

We do not have the agency to choose where we are born. So many decisions that dictate our education are made for us, and we can’t do anything about it. Ender was bullied for being a “Third”, but he didn’t choose to be a Third. However, he persevered and saw things from a different perspective, so he became the one to defeat the Buggers. Someone could be born to a wealthy family and sent to the best school in the world but not take advantage of their opportunities. A girl in South Sudan might use every opportunity that she has, but there aren’t enough opportunities for her to become well-educated. I am grateful that I have the opportunities to learn and succeed.

Ender was marginalized for being a “Third”, yet he still managed to defeat the Buggers. A girl in South Sudan might have been the person in our world to defeat the Buggers, but she is illiterate because she never had the opportunity to learn to read and write. I have a chance at defeating the Buggers because I am sent to a school that has access to well-educated teachers, new class materials, a lunch program, and so much more. However, some public schools in the very same city on the West Bank of the Mississippi River don’t have as many resources. Why? I’m not exactly sure, but I do know that they should be given the same opportunity as my classmates and me.

People go to lower school to “prepare” for middle school. Middle school teaches the information for high school. If they do well in high school, they can get into a good college. People study at colleges to get a well-paying job, to make money, to provide for themselves, and maybe a family. Then, their children repeat the same process. It’s an endless cycle, a broken record playing the same song on repeat. Sometimes, something comes and switches out the record, and for a while the song is interesting, but soon it falls back into the same cycle. For me, Ender’s Game was that new record, and I don’t intend on letting the song get boring.

When I read about Dink and Ender’s conversation, I realized that students do want to “win win win.” Students in today’s schools want to do well. Students want to get good grades because it is a symbol of success, a symbol of power. Students in Battle School train, compete, and grow to hate each other because of this need to be successful, so that they have the power to kill the Buggers. It’s what drives the human race, the need for power. To advertise for seats of power costs money. Without money, the I.F. wouldn’t have been able to build fleets of ships.

Mr. Card, I appreciate you reading my letter. Ender’s Game made me question my view of the world. Your book taught me that people don’t choose their path, that life is an endless cycle, and that power is what drives the human race. Now, I am much more grateful for the life that was given to me. I am trying to fix the broken record, instead of only writing a new song. When I grow up, I used to want to be a lawyer. Now, I think that after I make enough money as a lawyer, I will run for president or the head of education in the United States. I want to break the cycle. I want to change the need for power. Humans should be driven by the need to help others, and I think that is exactly what I am going to do.

Thank you,

Annika Roberson

Second Place Winner Level I, grades 4-6

Kelon George, Prairie Elementary School, Lafayette

Dear Mr. Kinney,

At first, I didn’t want to read your books in 2nd grade. But my friend Chandler told me to read it. So I learned about Diary of a Wimpy Kid by my friend showing me. Your jokes in the book are hilarious and entertaining. The first book I read from you was Double Down and after that, I was so interested that I started reading all the books in the correct order.

When I read the first fifty pages of Double Down I was instantly hooked. However, my favorite book was The Getaway. The jokes were very funny I would read it again just for the fun of it. But the Double Down is special for me because Greg Heffley is in middle school, and I’m soon going to Middle School. I confess I am a bit scared. But the book helped me.

But first and foremost, your books impacted my life on not to judge a book by its cover. Also, it gave me humor more than other books did. But it didn’t just affect me it affected my school. When Double Down came out everybody in the school talked about who could get the book first, yes. That’s how good the series is. It was a busy day I went to the bookstore no one knew in my class that the book came out. When I got to school I showed them they were in shock and in the next week everyone read it. When I read it the jokes were funny the things that occurred were different and funny at the same time.

But the reason why I chose Double Down is because I am getting ready to go to Middle School, and in Double Down Greg Heffley is in Middle School. Your book makes me be less intimidated about Middle School, because it is like Elementary but on another level. Greg had good days and bad days just like I have now. Sometimes he would lie and trick his parents, get Ds and Cs, but he manages to pass his classes. Sometimes he is lazy, slacks off, likes video games and cartoons, just like me, so I identify with him. The Double Down makes me be less nervous about Middle School.

At this very moment, I’m reading The Meltdown. So far I’m enjoying the book. People tell me if a series is too long it starts to get boring, but I think your books will never get boring. It affects my life a lot that when I had to pick a character to act for an audition I chose Greg Heffley.

This day I wanted to meet you and ask how do you do it? How do you make books funny? When I'm down I read your books It cheers me up. When I'm done with The Meltdown I plan on reading a biography about you. I’ve seen all of the movies of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and I also enjoyed it, but the movies don’t have everything that is in the books. I would really like to see a movie on The Getaway.

If you read this, I hope you make another book or even a different series I know it will be funny. Diary of a Wimpy Kid in fact was the first book I thought was funny. I don’t have a least favorite book from you. If you read this, I will tell my friends that Jeff Kinney got to read my letter. I would say I’m your number 1# fan but I don't know about the whole world. If I meet you I would ask for a hug and a picture and thank you for the books and for the laughter.


Kelon George

First Place Winner Level II, grades 7-8

Phoenix Chapital, Lusher Charter School, New Orleans

Dear Barack Obama:

If I could write like you, I would have written a million books by now. If I remembered every single moment of my life, I would write stories about growing up in New Orleans as an African-American girl and struggling to come to terms with my own identity, and finding where I belong in the world. But writing a book would be pointless, because I don’t know where I belong. I haven’t gained immense wisdom from my experiences and challenges, because I haven’t experienced enough or overcome my challenges. In truth, I’m still finding myself. Through reading your book, though, I have gained an entire life’s worth of wisdom. I have learned the lessons that you learned growing up. I was able to visit the places you visited, meet the people you met, and see the entire world through your eyes. Dreams from My Father is different from any other book I’ve read. It’s not a book I can escape to when my world becomes too much, because the things that I’m trying to escape show up in the story of your life, too. The world I was thrust into when I read the first page of Dreams from My Father was not unfamiliar at all; it’s the one I see every day.

There’s something about the way you describe the events in your life so poetically that left me thinking about the words on the page long after I finished reading them. Because my mom read it before I did, we’d stay up late after my siblings had gone to sleep and marvel at the genius of your words. I found myself laughing audibly in the car when I came across something I found particularly witty, and reading passages out loud to my friends at lunch. To myself, I re-read page after page and thought about how each thing that happened to you could possibly relate to me. It’s surprising how connected to your story I feel. We grew up differently, yet somehow the story of your life resonated with me in a way I can’t quite explain.

Of course, there’s the issue of race. Even though both of my parents are black, I’ve always felt somewhat torn between the white and black communities. With my black friends, I carry the weight of the past on my shoulders. With my white friends, I seem to have forgotten the past all together. But if your book has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t belong in just one place. We leave a tiny piece of ourselves in every person that we meet, and everywhere our lives are connected to. When you visited Africa, you wrote that your name belonged, so you belonged. I wonder if I would feel like I belonged there. Africa, to me, is this vast place that I can’t even picture in my head. When I try to, I drums and colorful fabrics and the sun. I don’t see myself. But somehow, like you, I know a part of me is there, and always will be.

The past is heavy, and it’s a burden we can’t escape. I remember when I first learned of slavery. My third grade teacher sat us down on her carpet and explained to us the history of our nation. I was sitting next to my best friend, who is white, and wondering why, 200 years ago because of the color of our skin, I would have been a slave and she would not have been. What I didn’t understand until much later is that it is not our appearances that make us different, but the different things we are subjected to in life because of them. I look back on that moment in the classroom now and I wish I were there. I wish I had only begun to open my eyes to the horrors of the past, injustice of the present, and uncertainty of the future. I’m afraid to open my eyes completely. I’m afraid of what I might see. Fear drives so many things. A fear of difference is what drives people to believe that a person is somehow lesser because of the color of their skin. I fear that I will be given the same black girl stereotypes that have been inflicted upon generations of black women; that we’re angry, dirty, and unworthy. More than anything, I fear that I will give in to these stereotypes. But, despite all of my fears, Dreams from My Father showed me that no matter how scary and unpredictable life gets, there is always a way through.

Thank you,

Phoenix Chapital

Second Place Winner Level II, grades 7-8

Magnolia Charlet, Northwestern Middle School, Zachary

Dear John Green,

Your book Paper Towns inspired me to accept things as they are and not decide things or form opinions based off of assumptions alone. Throughout the whole book, I just expected for there to be a picture-perfect cute little reuniting scene then suddenly Margo’s all fine and ‘don’t worry guys she just wanted to be a bit rebellious but now it’s okay’ and she comes back home. But then it wasn’t.  I wanted it to be a nice little bow on top, with a nice cliché mystery solving of where she was hiding, like an intense game of hide and seek and then we go get her, followed by the Margo we thought we knew just agreeing to go and there being a definitive and happy ending.

But this is realistic fiction, not fantasy.

The book instead ends with them parting ways, left ambiguous. And that honestly made me pretty mad for a while. But it\ didn’t last long, because I understood that we don’t even know that much about Margo. I mean of course there’s things we sort of know, but Q just honestly likes the idea of her rather than her. Q is a huge fan of the Margo he created in his head out of bits and pieces of information about her, but we genuinely don’t know a ton about Margo. I associate with this as I’ve met people I’ve befriended before knowing much about them, occasionally only related to proximity alone or from what I'd heard of them. These friends never last long, as the hype is typically exaggerated, and I discover we have very few things if anything in common. It’s the people who I least expect to befriend that I make the best friends with. The people who have become my good friends are an odd selection of people who make me laugh, or who are always there for comfort, or they’re really nice, or a mixture of all three. I’ve also assumed many things about people without knowing the truth, as Q did. I simply make assumptions based off of no logic but simply what I think possibly may be the case, possibly incredibly incorrect.

When I had come to the end of the book, I wished I could change the end, and my mind filled with infinite futures for a better ending in my opinion, where Margo comes home and is safe and sound and everyone is happy. But then I came to accept that this is like how life is, with future unknown and hardly any definitive conclusions being able to be made. So thank you for teaching me both of these things, and thank you for writing this book.


Magnolia Charlet

Third Place Winner Level II, grades 7-8

Lauren Poole, Winfield Middle School, Winnfield

Dear Ms. Malala Yousafzai,

Let me give you a little background on how I happened to read your book, "I am Malala". In school I participate in BETA, which is a national academic organization. The BETA competition I compete in is called Book Battle, which is a competition where our team has to read 12 books and ultimately answer questions and write constructive responses to the questions. One of the twelve books this year is your book "I am Malala". Though I rarely read non-fiction works, I was mesmerized by your story; it has forever changed my view on the world around me and about the importance of my education.

In your book you described your life as a teenager going to school. It is a far cry from my life, growing up in a small town in Louisiana. In the United States the law requires children from ages 5-18 (age varies from state to state) to attend school. I’ve never had to fight for my education. Schools in my area even go as far as having the same number of girl and boy sports to show equality, and allowing boys and girls to be in the same class. As a girl, I am also allowed to compete against other young adults - male and female - in such events as the History Bee, National History Day and the Science Fair. We are similar in some aspects, as some of your experiences in school sounds very similar to mine, in that I too get many awards every year and I am one of the top students in my class. Your book made me question what my life would have been like if I had been born in a different country, one engaged in a war, or to different parents. Would it have been more like yours? I can barely imagine being scared to walk to school or have bombs go off near my house, but that was your daily life. Being shot for fighting for something you believe in and still being brave enough to speak your opinion about education is almost unimaginable. Although it does bring to mind the fact that during recent years in the United States there have been numerous situations where an individual went onto a school campus and killed or shot innocent people and students; but these cases were isolated and not because someone was speaking openly about education.

We are similar in that neither of us come from rich or well-off families, but your story made me realize how much I truly have - a safe life, a roof over my head, a free education, and so much more. I truly believe that America is a great country where anything is possible! Before reading your book I have always tried to do my best in school but I did not truly appreciate it. Seeing that not everyone has access to what I have makes me think twice about saying that I do not want to go to school. We are both similar in that our parents place significance on getting a good education - your father was even the owner/principal of the school you attended. My parents have always said that my job at this point in life is to do the best I can in school by learning as much as I possibly can. My parents have also told me that you get out of an education what you put into it, I can be whatever I want to be as an adult, I just have to work for it. I believe that every child should be striving to get the best education possible. My recent realization of the state of education in other countries has made me appreciate my school, my teachers, and my education more than I ever have before. It makes me understand that school is a privilege as much as it is a responsibility.

In your book you also described your fight to make education in your country better and accessible to more children. You were just a little older than me, and you recovered from a gunshot wound and were speaking to world leaders and representatives. You’ve shown me that even as young person, I can make a difference and make the world a better and safer place. I hope that given the opportunity I can be as brave as you were in voicing your opinion and fighting for what is right. I would like to change the world, to help people. You have continued to make a difference in many children’s’ lives and are a wonderful role model. Thank you for opening my eyes to the world beyond my small town and changing my view on education forever.


Lauren Poole


First Place Winner Level III, grades 9-12

Donovan Turpin, Cedar Creek School, Ruston

Dear J. K. Rowling,

When I discovered the magical world of Harry Potter, it was just a torn old wad of papers, pressed between two other books at my grandmother’s house. To my second-grade eyes, it was nothing outstanding compared to the other books: just a short, brown paperback book amidst a sea of rigid hardbacks. But I may as well have been Professor Snape examining the Marauder’s Map, because I misjudged entirely the wonders between its pages.

I, along with about three other avid readers in my grade, finished the entire series in around two months, staying up far past our bedtimes just to be ahead of the others reading it. It wouldn’t take three drops of Veritaserum to get us to confess that Harry wasn’t just a hero in the wizard world; he was our hero. We longed for our own magic from Halloween costumes to themed birthday parties to back yard Quidditch matches without enough brooms to go around, seven books inspired several years of play and friendship. Sadly, over the years as we all fell out of touch and our friendship dissipated, so did my enthusiasm for your books. It wasn’t until I picked up that same, tattered old copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone that I realized how much more than games these stories had conjured in my life, and how real they have become.

From Harry’s explosion of knowledge upon recognizing his magical identity, it dawned on me that these books had been my spark of imaginative thought as a child. I had, in a similar way to Harry, developed an outlook of wonder in my exploration of the world. As my incomplete knowledge of the real world expanded, it included both grass and gillyweed, both bears and Boggarts, both Muggles and magic. The fact that I knew what was truth from what was fiction does not in any way dampen the fantastical images levitating in my mind. Imagination is what makes each individual different and special. Critics may have seen your spells and creatures as meaningless, made up words, but because of your books, my imagination allowed me to look beyond what was real and try to grasp what could be real.

As I’ve aged, many things I hadn’t even imagined have, in fact, become a reality. High school is a turbulent time for anyone going through it, and many people can be perceived as things they are not because their peers don’t know the complete story. Sirius Black was sentenced to prison for a crime he did not commit. Remus Lupin had to resign because of a quality he could not control. Even Severus Snape, who seemed to hate Harry for nearly the entire series, had loved him the whole time. On a graver note, discrimination still takes place today based on background. Hermione is continuously persecuted in latter books for being born of Muggle parents, and Ron’s family is looked down upon because of a dearth of money in their family. In the southern culture of the US, racism and anti-feminism are prevalent in society, and although change is coming about, it happens slowly. It takes courage and a strong-willed mind to stand up for what you believe is right, and this is exactly what your books have taught me.

The adventures—and misadventures—of our three beloved Gryffindor protagonists has shown me how to shed sunlight on the Devil’s Snare that is popular opinion and reality. Nevertheless, my only regret from reading your series is that I didn’t have magic of my own. Any person wishes it were as simple as uttering the words “expecto patronum” to dispel evil from our lives. Dumbledore mentions two types of magic that I know to exist even in Muggles such as myself: love, the inseparable binding force between human beings, and words, “capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.” However, your books taught me two new kinds of magic: imagination and courage, and that working in tandem, they can make you into your own hero. I cannot thank you enough for that.

Wondrously yours,

Donovan Turpin

P.S. The owl you sent with my Hogwarts acceptance letter has surely gotten lost by now.

Second Place Winner Level III, grades 9-12

Marie Foret, Ursuline Academy, New Orleans

Dear Mr. Khaled Hosseini,

You gave me a voice. You gave me a passion. You gave me a will to act and for that, I am grateful to you. I was first introduced to Mariam and Laila when I was an

impressionable tenth grader attending my first Women’s Literature class taught by one of my favorite teachers, Mrs. Carton. We started off with a few great works: Little

Women, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and The Handmaid’s Tale, but then we got to you, Mr. Hosseini. Unsure of what to expect from a novel with a title so enticing and

powerful, I began to tear through the pages. “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” I thought to myself as I slowly read the cover. Today the title still baffles me in its beauty and subjectivity as the words could mean anything to the reader. For me, these thousands of splendid suns ignited my path in understanding empathy through the world around me.

To be honest, I did not like the novel at first. The treatment of young girls in Afghanistan along with Mariam’s rough upbringing startled me as I did not understand the reason for this; but then, I realized why I was confused and angry. It was my lack of knowledge in current events, history itself, and the cultural differences between my own childhood and Mariam and Laila’s. This book fostered my long journey to becoming a more educated citizen and woman. It was during my Women’s Literature class that I truly began to recognize the world around me. Before I read this novel, I felt as if I had been sheltered inside a small community without insight on the outside world...the

frightening world that everyone talks and writes about. A Thousand Splendid Suns opened my eyes to the importance of education, death, religious and cultural beliefs, and most of all: respect through empathy. In this, I believe that my favorite quote explains the growth that I have received from your novel: “And so Mariam raised the shovel high, raised it as high as she could, arching it so it touched the small of her back. She turned it so the sharp edge was vertical, and, as she did, it occurred to her that this was the first time that she was deciding the course of her own life.” After this, I understood that my ignorance of current events would not be beneficial to me; therefore, I decided to change my daily actions and become more involved with the beautiful diversity of the world. For example, I recently visited a mosque with my friend in order to understand the peacefulness and practices of Islam itself. My interest in the ongoings of politics and foreign affairs enable me to participate in debates in class and defend my beliefs. Mr. Hosseini, because of Mariam’s strong-willed character, I have become more inclined to understand the history and cultures of other people.

Though this journey of truly understanding empathy is not over, every day I become closer in truly recognizing the beauty of the world just like Laila does after Mariam dies. Laila is finally allowed to enjoy her life with Tariq, Zalmai, and Aziza due to the motherly care Mariam provides for her while they are both under Rasheed’s household. As I sit outside on my old back porch in a hand-me-down iron chair, I see the blue jays and the bright red cardinals, the radiant sky with spots of clouds, the different shades of green in the trees all in front of me. “Pure” is the only word that I can think of to describe this scene. Hidden from human destruction, my backyard has become a sanctuary. I see the bright joy that encaptures my body; almost as if a thousand little suns have lit up my senses. This is the feeling that I imagine that Laila felt when she came face to face with Tariq again after their long and painful separation. A feeling that must have lingered in Mariam’s body after she freed Laila from Rasheed once and for all. Through Laila and Mariam’s journey as women, you have empowered me to look for beauty in the world, which has led me to develop a greater sense of empathy and compassion for others. You have truly impacted me in more than a thousand splendid ways.

With warm regards and gratitude,

Marie Foret

Third Place Winner Level III, grades 9-12

Lauren Shirley, Cedar Creek School, Ruston      

Dear Rick Riordan,

When I first picked up your novel, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, I was absorbed in the magical world that Camp Half-Blood exists within. As a fourth grader, this new mythical world of monsters and heroes enchanted me, and I desperately longed for it to become real. The story created a world in my head, a world where I could be the hero, not an introverted fourth grader who didn’t quite know where she belonged yet.

In high school, I decided to pick up the series again and read it on a new level. The magic I felt the first time returned instantly, and the warmth of childhood memories revisited me. However, this time the magical memories of Camp Half-Blood resonated with me in a deeper way. Characters became real people, not just heroes in a book. I was able to connect with them better now, since I had grown up myself. While the memories were magical, one thing continued to stick out and bother me, no matter how hard I tried to suppress it. The person I had desperately longed to be all my life, someone confident, intelligent, witty, courageous, is embodied by Annabeth Chase, and the longer I read, the worse I felt.

Throughout middle school and the beginning of high school, I constantly battled with an overwhelming feeling of mediocrity. I never felt as if I was enough of any quality. As my infatuation with her character grew, the lengths to which I criticized myself grew with it. I compared myself to Annabeth in a harmful way, reminding myself that I could never be her, or have those qualities I longed to embody. It was damaging to remind myself that I could never be the person I saw in her, and she became a realistic shadow that haunted my thoughts. As I made my way further into the series, I tried to use Annabeth as a model for my life, not someone to negatively compare myself to. Critiquing my character through her became a way for me to stay on track with the person I wanted to become, and I quickly saw that I would never become her by lacking confidence. Annabeth embodies confidence, and while sometimes she has too much of it, she never doubts her strengths and skills.

I realized she was created to show female strength and portray what we are capable of, what I am capable of. How could I be her by hiding my face? Instead of walking among people with my eyes glued to my shoes and my hands shoved in my pockets, I keep my eyes up. This is what Annabeth would do, I remind myself. I decided that my voice is worth being heard, too, so I speak up. I raise my hand in class. It is no longer hard to speak to a stranger as if I had known them all my life. If she can throw sass at a Goddess, I can keep my eyes off of the ground. It was difficult, at first, but I could feel her confidence diffusing into me through these stories. A few people close to me, my parents and peers, commented on my newly-found confidence, claiming I seemed to be a new person. I silently gave my kudos to Annabeth, and most importantly you.

Thank you for creating a world for me to escape to, and thank you especially for giving me a way to not only accept myself, but push myself to be the person I know I can be. In the present day, I still remind myself to be like Annabeth when I feel myself losing confidence, or even catch my eyes traveling back to the ground. Through Annabeth, I am now able to remind myself that I may not be a monster-fighting demigod, but I am me, and that’s more than enough.


Lauren Shirley

LAL 2019 Finalists

LEVEL 1 (Grades 4-6)

Prairie Elementary School, Lafayette

Teacher: Kirby Jambon

Kelon George (second place winner)

Trinity Episcopal School, New Orleans

Teacher: Adam Hayden

Annika Roberson (first place winner)

Independent Submission (no school identified)

Mallorie Richardson, Albany

LEVEL 2 (Grades 7-8)

David Thibodeaux STEM Magnet School, Lafayette
Teacher: Amanda Welter

Athena Constantine, Lafayette

Lusher Charter School, New Orleans

Teacher: Erica Cross

Phoenix Chapital (first place winner)

Teacher: Rebekah Bradshaw


Elizabeth Burke

Braden McAvoy

Rain Monroe (honorable mention)

Ariana Moody

Henry Morse

Adam Shepley

Northwestern Middle School, Zachary

Teacher: Margret Atkinson

Kadra Bates

Jayden Bergeron

Janiya Brown

Magnolia Charlet (second place winner)

Stane' Daniels

Fabian De La Cruz

Averie Manuel

Ainslie McNabb

Ava Nichols

Cora O'Keefe

Abigail Richard

Chastity Sample

Emma Todd

Claire Venable


Winnfield Middle School, Winnfield

Teacher: Mrs. Rozelle

Lauren Poole (third place winner)

LEVEL 3 (Grades 9-12)

C.E. Byrd High School, Shreveport

Teacher: Debra Guillot

Jordan Atchison

John Burford

C'elcey Carpenter

Kalyn Dupont

Dazani Jackson

Robert Lawrence

Madeline Mackey

Elizabeth McBride

Emily Miller

Chandler Milligan

Emery Pratt

Cate Rider

James Rushing


Vincent Sauseda

Amanda Smallwood

Claire White

Aniya White

Jacob Yawn

Teacher: Kathy O’Neal

Riley Walker

Cedar Creek School, Ruston

Teacher: Leanne Bordelon

Jackson Harris

Georgia Albritton

Abigail Bridges

Annamari Farrar

Logan Johnson

Jayden Nguyen

Lauren Shirley (third place winner)

Anna Storms

Donovan Turpin (first place winner)

Mount Carmel Academy, New Orleans

Teacher: Gilly Jaunet

Ashleigh Lark


Izzi Whitfield

Teacher: Jennifer Smith Richard

Caroline Bonin

Teacher: unlisted

Haley Colomb

Saint Paul's School, Covington

Teacher: Brother Ray Bulliard


Isaiah Ayo

Jack Bertucci

Trent Caime

Eric Hanrahan

Jacob Houser

Carter Murphy

Zachary Nichols (honorable mention)

Michael Olsen

Preston Orgeron

Thomas Rushing

Daniel Sears

Drew Spell

Alexander Tepper

Tristan Trepagnier

Blake Weimer

Andrew Zibilich

Independent Submission (no school identified)

Jenifer Davis, Westlake

Krissi Doucet, Breaux Bridge

Marie Foret, New Orleans (second place winner)

Lydia O'Kelly-Farrell, Lafayette


Rebecca Hamilton
State Library of Louisiana
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Julio Guichard
Office of the Lieutenant Governor
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Public Invited to Attend Annual Program Hosted by Louisiana Poet Laureate Jack Bedell

BATON ROUGE, La.– In celebration of National Poetry Month, the Louisiana Center for the Book is pleased to announce the ninth annual “Just Listen to Yourself: The Louisiana Poet Laureate Presents Louisiana Poets” program. Louisiana Poet Laureate Jack Bedell will host the event on Wednesday, April 17, 2019, from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Seminar Center of the State Library, 701 N. 4th St., Baton Rouge.

Bedell has invited six poets from across the state to participate in readings of their work. Participating poets include Mona Lisa Saloy, Genaro Ky Ly Smith, and John Warner Smith as well as previous Louisiana poet laureates Darrell Bourque, Ava Leavell Haymon, and Julie Kane.

“Louisiana is a state rich in culture, and poetry is no exception,” said Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser. “State Librarian Rebecca Hamilton and Poet Laureate Jack Bedell do a phenomenal job bringing together some of the best talent Louisiana has to offer.”

“Each year I look forward to the opportunity to hear the amazing Louisiana poets from all corners of the state assembled by our poet laureate,” said Rebecca Hamilton, State Librarian. “It’s an inspiring event that makes one proud to be a Louisianan.”

The event is free and open to the public. Attendees are welcome to bring a brown bag lunch.



Rebecca Hamilton
State Library of Louisiana
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Julio Guichard/Bill Sherman
Office of the Lieutenant Governor
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