Children’s author brings Creole spice to Shannon

By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal

SHANNON – Fourth-graders at Shannon Elementary School got a dose of Cajun-flavored storytelling on Wednesday, as New Orleans author Dianne de Las Casas shared a few of her books.
Las Casas acted out her story of the Cajun Cornbread Boy, a play off the well-worn gingerbread boy tale. In Las Casas’s version, the protagonist has chilis for eyes and a cut of boudin for a mouth, and dodges raccoons, foxes, and alligators through the Louisiana bayou.
Though her performance was whimsical and fun on the surface, it involved students in the act of storytelling, reinforcing techniques learned in the classroom.
“I strive for my stories to connect across the curriculum,” she said. “The way I present my stories is visual, tactile, vocal and reaches many different types of learners. It’s interactive, which helps them take the words and visualize them in their head. When children have ownership of the story, they put their heart into it.”
After the presentation, students returned to their classroom to craft their own regional story based on the bones of the gingerbread boy tale, with Mississippi traits instead of Cajun. Students brainstormed ideas, created flow charts, and utilized other pre-writing strategies built around the state’s curriculum objectives.
As a prize, Las Casas said she would post the best three stories on her website, making the winning students officially published authors.
Las Casas was brought to Shannon Elementary through an ExPect Grant penned by principal Ida Brand, Reading and Drama teacher Joy Lucius, and a few other teachers.
Lucius said she wanted to bring a regional writer so students would be curious about their own state’s literary heritage.
“Our students come from a long line of Mississippi writers, and to show them someone like [Las Casas] tells them they have the capacity to be anything they want to be,” she said.
riley.manning@journalinc.com