NOLA & ROUX: A Louisiana Fable
By Todd-Michael St. Pierre
Illustrations by Lori Walsh & Shannon Walsh
Piggy Press Books, 31 pages
Reviewed by C.J. Newton
This is a charming children’s book for all ages to enjoy. In this case, it’s OK to judge the book by its cover.
That depicts a female mouse wearing Mardi Gras beads, with an iconic New Orleans streetcar in the background. She’s Nola, a Creole mouse from the French Quarter. She shares the cover with Roux; he’s a Cajun mouse sitting on a dock by a bayou. This illustrates the age-old rift between city and country cousins.
The story retells the ancient fable of “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse” by Aesop, with a nod to the poem by French fabulist Jean de la Fontaine (1621-1695). This localized update is a perfect parable for explaining the difference between the Cajuns—primarily rural and champions of traditional ways, and the Creoles—primarily urban and proponents of a fancier life.
In this version, Nola accidentally visits Acadiana when she’s toted there in a picnic basket. She meets Roux and he shares his simple lunch with her. Then she invites him back to New Orleans to show him a good time. He sees a Mardi Gras parade (I liked the humor of the krewe called Ratticus on their float) and as they’re about to enjoy a fine feast, they are discovered by humans and have to run from the cat, Arabella. Roux returns to the country where he says he must eat more simply but with less fear. Interestingly, Nola points out that even in the country he still has to be on the alert for alligators, so the moral is less clear-cut and yet more like the gray areas in real life. The moral of this edition is that it’s OK to agree to disagree.
This book is a great value because the text is presented in English, French and Spanish. More English-Spanish bilingual books are appearing but a trilingual book in the U.S. is rare. French was the second language I learned after my native English. Living in upstate New York, Quebec intrigued and entranced me. The study of French paved the way for me to easily learn Spanish after I moved to California. So Nola & Roux was three books in one for me personally. I bought it for my grandson. He is already exposed to English and Spanish and now he’ll hear the rhythm of French too.
Parents and grandparents who want to give a child a gentle and colorful exposure to the age-old story in English, French and Spanish will enjoy Nola & Roux immensely. The lush colors of the illustrations will transport the young reader to the mystery of the bayou and the majesty of the wrought iron balconies and galleries of the French Quarter.
St. Pierre finds inspiration in Cajun and Creole culture. He is the author of several children’s books, and cookbooks for adults with themes of Louisiana, where he was raised. His website is http://www.louisianaboy.com where you can learn more about him and his other works.
Bonus materials after the main story include “Song of Nola: A Creole Mouse” and “Song of Roux: A Cajun Mouse”; a Lesson giving background on the origin of the Creole and Cajun peoples; and a fun children’s recipe for King Cake. All generations can appreciate Nola & Roux.