Mumbo Jumbo, Stay Out of the Gumbo

Mumbo Jumbo Cover.jpg
Mumbo Jumbo Cover.jpg

Mumbo Jumbo, Stay Out of the Gumbo


The Cajun Mardi Gras book was selected to represent the State of Louisiana at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. in September 2017. In October 2017, Johnette Downing received the 2017 Louisiana Writer Award at the Louisiana Book Festival.

It’s Fat Tuesday, and things are getting hot. This Courir de Mardi Gras, one clever rooster vows that he will not end up in the gumbo pot! As masked Carnival revelers travel across Acadiana begging for ingredients for their communal gumbo, the rooster flies ahead to warn the alligator, goose, crawfish, shrimp, pig, oysters, turkeys, ducks, rabbits, and chickens to hide and stay out of sight. Although the revelers visit every farmhouse, there is “nary a critter from a gator to a mouse”! How will the Cajuns celebrate Mardi Gras without gumbo?

With her trademark lyricism, celebrated Louisiana musician and author Johnette Downing draws readers through a landscape filled with Cajun dialect, French-Cajun words, and a catchy repeated refrain that makes this read-aloud story a sing-along for the whole family. In her second collaboration with Downing, artist Jennifer Lindsley provides a humorous glimpse of the hilarity and chaos as the rooster runs across the countryside. Downing provides a glossary of traditional French-Cajun words used in the story and a delicious recipe for gumbo z’herbes guaranteed to be rooster free!

Called the “musical ambassador to children,” Louisiana musician and author Johnette Downing has received twenty-two international awards for her books and music and has performed on five continents. She is the author of nineteen children’s books with Pelican. Her most recent book, Petit Pierre and the Floating Marsh, is a collaboration with the Audubon Nature Institute and the New Orleans Pelicans basketball team. It was selected as the representative for the State of Louisiana in the Pavilion of States at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC. Downing resides in New Orleans with her husband, Scott Billington.

Since she began coloring on walls as a child, Jennifer Lindsley has created artwork in almost every medium. With a bachelor of arts degree in design technology from the University of Northern Colorado, she owns and operates ACME Studios, LLC. A relative of Dennis (Denus) McGee, the Cajun musician whose grave is a traditional stop on the Courir de Mardi Gras, Lindsley lives near New Orleans with her son, Haden, and their cat.

Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Pelican Publishing Company, Inc. (February 8, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1455623008
ISBN-13: 978-1455623006
Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 0.4 x 11.1 inches

  • Shipping Weight: 14.6 ounces
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Kirkus Review

It’s Fat Tuesday, and the bubbling gumbo needs some meat! Or does it?

Seeing the Courir de Mardi Gras, the ritual hunt, forming, a red rooster sets out to warn all the animals: “Le capitaine puts on / his capuchon. / Hey, alligator, / you better get gon’!” Once the goose, the pig, the crawfish, the oysters, and the other creatures have been likewise alerted (with the titular chorus), is the rooster’s work done? “The band is playing on the front stoop. / Oh mais chère, I better warn the coop!” In Lindsley’s vigorously brushed rural scenes, the comically gesticulating red rooster often occupies the foreground as, behind, a multiracial procession of revelers in colorful festival costume goes from farm to farm begging for a handout. Alas, the forewarned animals are all lying low—and so it is that “Across Acadiana with no animals in sight, / all the Cajuns eat gumbo z’herbes tonight.” Cultural notes and a recipe for “green gumbo” cap this mildly subversive nod to a Mardi Gras tradition and a delicious regional dish. Unfortunately, although the refrain is set in a contrasting display type, much of the narrative text is set in black type against deep blue skies, making large portions of it very difficult to read. 

“I root for the chicken!” writes Downing. Readers with good eyesight, even carnivorous ones, will too. (glossary) (Picture book. 6-8)