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updated: 2/7/2011 10:04 AM

Libraries introduce readers to 'Zeitoun' and life in New Orleans

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  • Author Dave Eggers' nonfiction book "Zeitoun" is the adult book selection in The Big Read 2011. The book explores the plight of a family in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

      Author Dave Eggers' nonfiction book "Zeitoun" is the adult book selection in The Big Read 2011. The book explores the plight of a family in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
    Associated Press

  • Mister Mojo and the Bayou Gypsies will perform Cajun and zydeco folk music March 1 at the Lisle Library to give readers a sample of New Orleans culture.

      Mister Mojo and the Bayou Gypsies will perform Cajun and zydeco folk music March 1 at the Lisle Library to give readers a sample of New Orleans culture.
    Daily Herald File Photo

  • Big Read events include sessions discussing Mardi Gras, the high point of New Orleans' French Creole culture, and other aspects of the city and the way it was affected by Hurricane Katrina.

      Big Read events include sessions discussing Mardi Gras, the high point of New Orleans' French Creole culture, and other aspects of the city and the way it was affected by Hurricane Katrina.
    Associated Press

  • For the first time, The Big Read will include Kids Read, Too! with a related picture book selection and events for children and families, like a showing of "The Princess and the Frog."

      For the first time, The Big Read will include Kids Read, Too! with a related picture book selection and events for children and families, like a showing of "The Princess and the Frog."
    Courtesy of Disney

 
 

The Big Read 2011 will reach out to both big and little readers this year.

For the first time in its seven-year history, the area-wide Big Read will contain a children's component.

The Big Read pulls together the resources of 10 libraries to connect patrons in Clarendon Hills, Downers Grove, Hinsdale, Indian Prairie, LaGrange, LaGrange Park, Lisle, Thomas Ford, Westmont and Woodridge library districts. It encourages everyone to read the same book.

The book selected is national best-seller "Zeitoun" by author and journalist Dave Eggers, who hails from suburban Chicago. In a journal format, we follow Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun, pronounced Zay-Toon, as Hurricane Katrina approaches New Orleans. Kathy takes their four children to safety in Houston while her husband is determined to stay behind to protect their business and home, believing the storm will miss the city.

What happens to the Syrian-born painting contractor as he makes his rounds in a small canoe is a reflection of compounded frustration, layers of bureaucracy and heartbreaking fears. It is racial profiling at its worst and a poignant family love story at its best.

One scene has a white FEMA trailer delivered for living quarters as the Zeitoun family rebuilds. However, it is simply set up on concrete blocks, not connected to utilities and with no key to open. Eight months later the trailer has an unsafe tilt and still cannot be used.

The Kids Read, Too! part of The Big Read will feature Renee Watson's picture book "A Place Where Hurricanes Happen."

"To include the children was an interesting and fun process for the children's librarians," said Lindsey Dorfman, Lisle Library's director of youth services. "It is important for the kids to take part in a community program too."

As a first-time author, Watson shows 7- to 10-year-olds that "New Orleans is a place where hurricanes happen, but that's only the bad side."

The children's book was selected to have families read together. In free verse, the author relates how four friends, who all live on the same street in the 9th Ward, are affected by Hurricane Katrina. The beautiful illustrations are by Shadra Strickland.

"(Children's librarians) began in September meeting every month to plan the children's programs," Dorfman said. "Since we thought parents would be willing to drive their children to a nearby library, but not one too far away, we repeated some of the same programs within a reasonable distance."

The children's programs include "The Kids Read, Too! Book Party" to explore the Crescent City's culture through food, games, music and more. A science workshop will delve into hurricanes, a mask-making workshop was inspired by Mardi Gras and a showing of Disney's "The Princess and the Frog" will help set the scene of New Orleans.

Kidworks Touring Theatre Co. will bring the book to life. The worthwhile program will have young audience members playing an active role as they beat djembe drums, dance at Congo Square and sample Cajun food.

Two Big Read guide brochures are available at all participating libraries. One highlights the children's programs; the other lists the adult opportunities giving dates, times and locations of all programs. The 15-page adult guide is also a PDF file online at thebigread.org.

The book selection process began last October with all 10 libraries sending a representative to the table. Any books that fit basic criteria were considered.

"The book must be available in paperback and audio format by the time The Big Read starts," said Rhonda Snelson, Lisle Library's public relations and adult program coordinator. "This year's possible (titles) were 'Zeitoun,' 'The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind' and 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.'"

The full committee reads all three books, then votes. "Zeitoun" received all but one vote, said committee member Snelson.

The adult programming is some of the most diverse The Big Read has ever offered.

The lineup begins at the Lisle Library at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 1, with An Evening with Mister Mojo and his Bayou Gypsies with original Cajun and zydeco music.

Other classes include Islamic Art and Architecture, Life on the Mississippi and Disaster Preparedness. You can learn more about Habitat for Humanity, travel to New Orleans and study Muslims 101. Mardi Gras, relief efforts, and political and social injustice are explored.

"A Streetcar Named Desire," based in New Orleans, will be shown at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 30, at the Tivoli Theatre in Downers Grove.

The Big Read small book groups begin in March with the Lisle Library hosting one at 7 p.m. Monday, April 11

Animal rescue during Hurricane Katrina was grave. The Big Read offers "No Pet Left Behind: What to do in an emergency" as well as "K9 Search and Rescue."

Registration for The Big Read programs began Feb 1. Programs with limited space may fill quickly. Patrons are encouraged to contact the host library to register for a particular class. The program brochure gives details.

The Big Read updates are available at twitter.com/bigread2011 or by liking the event on Facebook. The resourceful guide also offers websites, related reading and suggested DVDs.

The Big Read was designed to promote reading, cultivate community and inspire great discussions, but it is proving to be fun, too.

• Joan Broz writes about Lisle. E-mail her at jgbroz@yahoo.com.

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