New Orleans is at the top of my travel list, I am trying to learn as much as I can about this beautiful and historic city. Today I am sharing a very special book that brings you the sights, smells, and sounds of nineteenth century New Orleans.
by Kirstie Myvet (author) and Kameko Madere (illustrator)
Pelican Publishing 2020
Setting: Nineteenth Century New Orleans
Picture book for children ages 3-8
Themes: French Quarter New Orleans, Black Women Entrepreneurs, Black History, New Orleans Food
The story begins…
Praline Lady stands over the stove in her shotgun house. She adds white sugar, brown sugar, butter, milk, and pecans to a pot. She stirs the mixture until it is just right.
Plop, plop, plop on a buttered tray it goes. It spreads and cools into round praline treats.
In the nineteenth century, free colored women, as they were known, strolled the streets of the French Quarter selling pralines to the people they passed. The story follows one such lady as she prepares and then sells her candy. Readers are transported to the city to experience the cathedral, wagons, the French Market, the sounds of banjos, the smell of roasted coffee, and the warmth of fresh beignets. The Praline Lady calls out to customers as she sells her candy to provide for her family and to perhaps, someday, own a shop of her own.
The bright watercolor illustrations show the variety of people in the French Quarter including an elegantly dressed group, boys in knickers, dock workers, and nuns! The fabrics and headpieces worn by the women and the baskets they carry brings these hard-working business women to life.
The lyrical text shines a light on a little-know chapter in American history. New Orleans was home to black women entrepreneurs who sold not only pralines but flowers, fruit, and rice fritters known as calas. The author’s note in the back shares background information about the women entrepreneurs which even included enslaved women who were able to purchase their freedom. The book also includes a glossary and an extensive bibliography.
Why you need to add PRALINE LADY to your shelves:
- This is an inspiring story of the resourcefulness of black women who survived and prospered through their hard work and ingenuity.
- PRALINE LADY introduces a slice of the history of New Orleans and explains the legacy of pralines which continues today.
- The lyrical text is wonderful to read aloud and children will enjoy seeing how people lived in the past.
- PRALINE LADY is a great book to add to diversify your collection of black history and own voice stories.
To learn more about the story behind PRALINE LADY, read this wonderful article in COUNTRY ROADS MAGAZINE written by author Kirstie Myvett.
To learn more about author, Kirstie Myvett, read this interview from Kidlit 411.
Kirstie is a member of a diverse group of children’s authors. To see what she and the other authors are up to visit their website, Kid Lit In Color.
Of course, I had to try to make pralines. Mine don’t look quite as nice as the ones in the book but they are sweet and delicious!
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup cream
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
- 2 cups pecan pieces
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, Add the cream and both sugars and stir constantly until the sugars dissolve.
- Simmer until the mixture comes to a gentle boil, stirring frequently.
- Sir in the pecans and remove from heat.
- Using a wooden spoon, pour the praline mixture onto the prepared baking sheets leaving space between them as the pralines will spread as they cool.
- Cool for 30 minutes.
Makes 24 large pralines. Store in an airtight container.