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Louisiana Story Hour: Madame Poulet and Monsieur Roach

17:13 April 09, 2020
By: Kim Ranjbar
Image: whereyatcom_461564919.JPG

One of the most difficult adjustments I have had to make since moving to New Orleans is the proliferation of roaches. In California, I had seen the pencil-eraser-sized German cockroaches, but never in my life had I been exposed to what is called a "palmetto." These enormous cockroaches grow as large as and 1½ inches in length (I swear I've seen larger), form wings in adulthood (oh yes, they can fly) and are considered one of the fastest running insects. In a study at UC Berkeley in 1991, they were clocked at a record speed of 3.4 mph! I can't tell you how many times palmettos have eluded my attempts to stomp them to death, only to scurry off into an invisible crack underneath my kitchen cabinets.

Never did I expect to find a children's book about roaches, but not too long ago I discovered Madame Poulet and Monsieur Roach by Dianne de Las Casas, author of The Cajun Cornbread Boy. She is a local writer and recording artist, residing in Harvey, Louisiana who has received critical acclaim from the American Library Association and is a performer at arts-in-education programs all over the state.

When I saw the cover of Madame Poulet and Monsieur Roach, I couldn't help but be tickled by a children's book relating a tale between a chicken and a cockroach. As the story goes, Madame Poulet and Monsieur Roach were once great friends who lived together in harmony, foraging for food and generally enjoying one another's company. One day, Madame Poulet arises from bed early (as usual) and goes into Monsieur Roach's bedroom to wake him to go and find more food. Monsieur Roach begins to moan and tells Madame Poulet that he is too sick to help. Madame Poulet, concerned about her good friend, tells him to stay in bed and get some rest so he can get better.

As soon as Madame Poulet leaves the house, what does that rascally roach do? He invites over all his cockroach friends to party, crying "Laissez le bon temps rouler!" After several days of feigning sick and throwing parties while Madame Poulet is gone, Monsieur Roach finally gets caught when Madame Poulet comes home early. Both her food and friend problems end in one fateful snap of her beak as she swallows up Monsieur Roach and all of his friends.

This folk tale is really well done with wonderful rhyming and repetition, something I deem invaluable for children's stories - especially when reading aloud. The illustrations, by Marita Gentry, are bright and colorful, perfect for story-time page turning.

Best of all, I've learned that now, all I need to do to sort out anymore cockroach problems is to get myself a chicken!

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