This story -- featuring the deliciously playful artwork of David Catrow -- is inspired by an episode in the Louisiana childhood of James Carville's mother. The book includes a CD read by Carville in his inimitable voice.
About the Author
Patricia C. McKissack is the author of many highly acclaimed books for children, including Goin' Someplace Special, a Coretta Scott King Award
winner; The Honest-to-Goodness Truth; Let My People Go, written with her
husband, Fredrick, and recipient of the NAACP Image Award; The Dark-Thirty, a Newbery Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Award winner; and Mirandy and Brother Wind, recipient of the Caldecott Medal and a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
David Catrow is the illustrator of numerous notable books for children, including the other Silly Dilly books, as well as Kathryn Lasky's She's Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head!, which was named a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year. Mr. Catrow is also a nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist whose work appears in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Sun-Times, as well as in nine hundred other newspapers. He lives in Springfield, Ohio.
An Interview with James Carville
Why a children's book?
JC: Because what guy wouldn't want to write a book about his mother's childhood? I had a great childhood, and it was largely because of the life experiences of my mother and the values and traditions she passed down to me, which I in turn pass down to my two children. And it also is a great gift to leave to Matty and Emma to remember their grandmother and those very lessons of life she instilled in me.
How did you and Patricia C. McKissack work together to tell your mother's story?
JC: Actually, I did a narrative on my mother's story, and Patricia just kind of "got it" immediately and worked off the story and expanded on it with me.
The Southern storytelling tradition is an important part of your background. Aside from this book, how are you keeping this tradition alive in your own family -- particularly with the distractions of TV and computers?
JC: My children hear so many stories about Louisiana and my childhood that they kind of just roll their eyes at me now. But even at such a young age, my two children have a great sense of tradition and family -- and they appreciate that Mommy and Daddy have such diverse backgrounds and stories and lessons passed down from generation to generation. My wife recently recalled many of these lessons in her book, Letters to My Daughters and I've tried to do the same with some stories of my childhood. I think, too, I've become known more as a raconteur, and I've made an entire livelihood out of telling stories of my life and my upbringing.
What was the reaction of your brother and your sisters to Lu and the Swamp Ghost? Did they also remember this story?
JC: My brother, Steve, and my sisters remember the story quite fondly, because it is how my mother became known as Miz Nippy. The real story of how it began was that my mother befriended a homeless man (then called a "tramp" or a "hobo") named "Nip" that lived behind my mother's house. She would bring this man a warm blanket, food, or whatever he needed. Calling her Miz Nippy from then on recognized my mother's compassion.
Describe James Carville the "family man" as opposed to the political consultant.
JC: I have a lot less power as the family man. In the political arena my candidates would listen more to me and actually take more of what I suggested.
What was your reaction when you first saw David Catrow's illustrations?
JC: The first thing I thought was "this man is gonna win some kind of prize for this" because they were the most colorful, most original, most creative, most glorious drawings I've ever seen.
What family story do you think your kids would tell about you?
JC: I don't know there's just one story they are going to tell their kids about their mommy and daddy. What I do know is that they love stories about both of their parents and grandparents. They love to hear family stories and tell them. One of the most positive things that ever happened to them is that they have such an appreciation for their heritage. When I was young, I don't think I appreciated enough that my mother could speak French. In fact, as a kid, I think I was more embarrassed by it. Today, I'm proud, reflecting on my mother's heritage, and my kids are interested, excited, and proud of their Cajun and Croatian ethnicity as well.
What lessons can kids in 2004 learn from a girl who grew up during the Great Depression?
JC: I think the real lesson is to be what Lu was -- a strong, adventurous little girl with a great sense of self-worth and compassion for those less fortunate. They say that money makes for wealth, but love and family makes for riches. And, in the end, it is better to be rich than wealthy.
Do you see any of Miz Nippy's qualities in your daughters?
JC: I see the sense of compassion in Matty, and the adventure in Emma, and the fierce loyalty to family and to each other in both of them. A lot of people say they married their mothers -- that is to say, they looked for the qualities and sense of goodness found in their own moms. For me, I truly did marry someone like my mother. I don't know two people more alike than my mother and my wife.
Are there more stories about Miz Nippy you would like to tell?
JC: Well, I always loved strong, adventurous women even while growing up in a male-dominated time. I still love stories of strong women and have always been enamored by them. Let's just say, I've never been a Southern man that went for "magnolias in moonlight." I'd love to continue to share with my children and others the stories of my childhood and the lessons taught to me by my Southern roots. Hopefully, people will buy this book and share these same lessons with their children. And, should it be successful, I'd like nothing more than to share other stories about my mother.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Lu meets a swamp ghost and makes friends with him-really he is just an orphan boy, she then takes him home.
This is a great book!!! It covers so many important subjects for young children, being 'rich' , 'friends', with an authinic Louisiana flavor. Our entire family, from ages 4 to 51 just loved this book. (AND we are all republicans, sorry James!)