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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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Louisiana school children in grades 3-12 name their favorite books of the year!
BATON ROUGE, La. – The State Library of Louisiana is excited to announce the winners of the 2018-2019 Louisiana Readers’ Choice Awards, which include graphic novels winning both the grade 3-5 and grade 6-8 lists, and for the first time ever, a tie for first place for the teen readers’ choice list. With the program in its 20th year, Louisiana’s young people read more than 72,276 books and cast 22,741 votes this year alone.
The 2018-2019 Louisiana Young Readers’ Choice winners are:
Grades 3-5
The Bad Guys #1 (Scholastic) by Aaron Blabey
Grades 6-8
Ghosts (Scholastic) by Raina Telgemeier
Grades 9-12
Aging Out (The RoadRunner Press) by Alton Carter, Illustrated by Tim Jessell
Scythe: Arc of a Scythe Book 1 (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers) by Neal Schusterman
Honor titles include Wish (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) by Barbara O’Connor for the grade 3-5 list, Projekt 1065 (Scholastic) by Alan Gratz for the grade 6-8 list, and Heartless (Feiwel & Friends) by Marissa Meyer for the teen list.
“The Louisiana Readers’ Choice program is not only a great way to introduce students to some fantastic reads, but encourages an interest in the democratic process by allowing them the opportunity to vote on actual voting machines,” said Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser.
“We are so proud to have delivered this premier program to school aged children across Louisiana for the past 20 years,” said State Librarian Rebecca Hamilton. “One of our central goals has always been to promote literacy, and the Louisiana Young Readers’ Choice Awards does just that, providing students with high-interest titles selected by public and school librarians from all regions of Louisiana.”
Winners are selected from diverse booklists carefully chosen by committees of school and public librarians from across the state, and many students cast their ballots on voting machines supplied by the Secretary of State’s Voter Outreach Division.
An awards ceremony for honored book authors will be held at the Louisiana Book Festival on Saturday, November 2. For more information about the program, including previous winners, how to participate, and additional resources such as free bookmarks, posters, study guides, etc., please visit the Louisiana Young Readers’ Choice webpage.



Rebecca Hamilton
State Library of Louisiana
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Julio Guichard/Bill Sherman
Office of the Lieutenant Governor
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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 during the annual Black History Month program on Wednesday, February 13, at noon. Poet John Warner Smith will discuss his work, Muhammad's Mountain, the first-ever book-length collection of poetry on the life and legacy of Muhammad Ali in the State Library’s Seminar Center located at 701 North 4th Street in Baton Rouge. 

“Louisiana is one of the most diverse states in the nation, and we are so happy to be able to highlight the rich history of African-Americans in the United States,” said Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser. “From the Caribbean islands immigrants to the Creole people who call Louisiana home, there is no shortage of the rich African-American culture here.”

Consisting of 45 poems, Muhammad's Mountain takes a poetic perspective in examining the life of Mohammed Ali, and in so doing examines the last half of the twentieth century through the significant events Ali witnessed during those turbulent times.

“We are proud to hold this annual event at the State Library celebrating black history and gleaning new insights and wisdom directly from members of the African-American community,” said Rebecca Hamilton, State Librarian of Louisiana. “It’s truly an honor to host such rich cultural programming presented for entirely for free.”

John Warner Smith, who calls Baton Rouge home, is the author of four collections of poetry:  Muhammad’s Mountain, published by in 2018; Spirits of the Gods, in 2017; Soul Be A Witness, in 2016; and A Mandala of Hands in 2015. Smith’s fifth collection, Our Shut Eyes: New & Selected Poems on Race in America, is forthcoming in 2019.

The presentation is free and open to the public, and attendees are welcome to bring a “brown bag” lunch. Registration is not required. Books will be available for purchase from the author.



Rebecca Hamilton
State Library of Louisiana
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Julio Guichard/Bill Sherman
Office of the Lieutenant Governor
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Videos of National Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith’s “American Conversations” event at the Jean Lafitte Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center in Thibodaux, including interviews with her and attendees and Tracy’s reading, as well as the complete program, are now available on our You Tube channel.

TV segment with reading and interviews - https://youtu.be/nyqSYQbb_M4

Full Tracy K. Smith program - https://youtu.be/cWGa8khUaQM

The Library of Congress Center for the Book page featuring the Louisiana trip, the final leg of Tracy’s fall tour, with photos, interviews, and related links - including a post by Guy Lamolinara on LOC’s Poetry and Literature Center’s blog - may be found at http://www.read.gov/americanconversations/louisiana/index.html

Thanks to Director Laura Sanders and staff of Lafourche Parish Public Library and to the National Park Service for making it possible to meet Tracy’s request to go “down on the bayou” for the public programs.  We also thank Bette Billiot and the United Houma Nation for Tracy’s private meeting with them.  Thanks also to the Library of Congress’s Anya Creightney and Guy Lamolinara who accompanied Tracy on her Louisiana journey and brought with them the free copies of American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time given to attendees and donated to each Louisiana parish library system. And, of course, thanks to Tracy K. Smith for selecting Louisiana as a destination.




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BATON ROUGE, La.– The Louisiana Center for the Book in the State Library of Louisiana announces the annual Letters About Literature contest, a Library of Congress national reading and writing competition for students in grades 4-12 and coordinated in state by the Louisiana Center. To enter the contest, a student writes a personal letter to an author, living or deceased, explaining how the author’s book, poem, play, or speech changed the student’s view of the world or self.

“Letters About Literature is just one of many programs offered through the State Library of Louisiana that help promote and encourage literacy in our young people,” said Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser. “I hope teachers, school and public librarians, and homeschool parents across the state take advantage of this opportunity for their students to polish their reflective writing skills all while having the chance to win cash prizes and receive national recognition!”

Students may enter online at www.read.gov/letters through their school or local libraries, or on their own, in one of three competition levels: Level 1 for grades 4-6, Level 2 for grades 7-8, or Level 3 for grades 9-12.

“Literature has an amazing power to both inspire and to heal, and none so much as the books we read as young people,” said State Librarian Rebecca Hamilton. “I’ll never forget how books such as Matilda, Charlotte’s Web, and The Chronicles of Narnia inspired my life-long love of reading. The Letters About Literature contest offers a meaningful opportunity for students at a variety of grade levels to reflect on the way reading has affected their lives.”

The national Letters About Literature team selects finalists for Louisiana in each competition level; then, our state winners are chosen by a panel of judges including teachers and librarians from throughout the state. Our Louisiana winners receive $100 for first place, $75 for second place, and $50 for third place. The winners are honored at the Louisiana Book Festival. First place winning letters are submitted to the Library of Congress for the national competition with the chance of winning up to $1,000.

Letters must be submitted directly to the Library of Congress by January 11, 2019. Official rules, a call for student letters, and a helpful video series guide for participating may be found at www.read.gov/letters, as well as teacher resources with lesson plans and instructions for submitting letters as a group.

The 2018-2019 Letters About Literature contest is made possible through a 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.

In Louisiana, the contest is made possible by the Louisiana Center for the Book in the State Library of Louisiana with the assistance of the Louisiana Writing Project and the Louisiana Library and Book Festival Foundation. Funding for prizes is provided by a Library of Congress grant.


Rebecca Hamilton
State Library of Louisiana
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Julio Guichard/Bill Sherman
Office of the Lieutenant Governor
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BATON ROUGE, La.– Entering its 19th year, the Louisiana Young Readers’ Choice (LYRC) Awards Program is excited to announce the 2019-2020 nominated title lists for grades 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. Every year tens of 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, adding “the value of literacy and programs that encourage an interest in books cannot be overstated.”

 The 2019-2020 nominated title list includes award winning authors such as Newbery Medal recipient Katherine Applegate; Newbery Honor Award, Coretta Scott King Award, and Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction recipient Rita Williams-Garcia;William C. Morris Award winner Jeff Zentner; recipient of the John Newbery Medal, Edgar Award for Best Young Adult, Michael L. Printz Award, and a National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature, Jason Reynolds; Jane Addams Children's Book Awards for Book for Older Children nominee,Mitali Perkins; and winner of the 2017-2018 Louisiana Young Reader’s Choice award for grades 6-8, Svetlana Chmakova, to only name 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 which will inspire them to keep reading, 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, only 56% of Louisiana’s fourth graders are reading above the basic level, and even fewer reading at a proficient level. Louisiana is tied for third highest in the country in the number of teens not in school and not high school graduates. This is 25% higher than the national average. The Louisiana Center for the Book and the State Library of Louisiana believe fostering a lifelong love of reading among Louisianans will contribute to the state’s overall economic growth and quality of life.

 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/Bill Sherman
Office of the Lieutenant Governor
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