Freddi Evans

Host of Little Voices, Big Ideas

Freddi Williams Evans is the author of three historical and award-winning picture books: Hush Harbor: Praying in Secret (Carolrhoda, 2008), The Battle of New Orleans, the Drummer’s Story (Pelican Publishers, 2005), and, A Bus of Our Own (Albert Whitman, 2001). She is also internationally recognized for her scholarship on Congo Square, a historical landmark of African American culture in New Orleans. Along with over a dozen published essays and countless presentations, her books on the subject are Come Sunday, A Young Reader’s History of Congo Square (ULL Press, 2017), and Congo Square: African Roots in New Orleans (ULL Press, 2011), which received the 2012 Louisiana Humanities Book of the Year award and has been published in French.

As an educator, Freddi administered and implemented arts education programs in the Jefferson Parish Public School System, the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans, and the Ashé Cultural Arts Center. As a community activist, she has served on several committees to erect historical markers that commemorate African American history, including co-chairing the New Orleans Committee to Erect Historic Markers on the Slave Trade to Louisiana at the request of the National Park Service. Among her numerous honors, Freddi was named the Grand Griot of the 19th Annual Maafa Commemoration in New Orleans in 2019 and a “Humanities Hero” by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities in 2017.

One of my favorite books is Amazing Grace because of the simple yet successful way in which author Mary Hoffman presents social justice issues including race, class and gender. With family intervention and a bit of inspiration, Grace perseveres and overcomes the self-doubt imposed by society’s racial and gender norms. Grace not only changes inwardly; she becomes a change-agent in the world around her.

Maurice Sendak / Harper & Row

Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, takes readers on an extraordinary journey into the imagination of the wildest thing of all--the young and precocious Max.

Banished to his bedroom for bad behavior, Max sails across weeks and over a year to the land of the wild things, a bunch of misbehaving creatures who want nothing more than to rumpus till they can rumps no more. But when the bandying about is over, Max discovers he misses his home, and the very person who banished him in the first place: his mother.

Holiday House / Holiday House

 

There’s plenty of attention given to the pursuit of “happily ever after” in stories of all sorts. But how should we go about acquiring happiness? Is there a right or wrong way to do it?

Anansi the spider, the thieving trickster at the heart of Eric Kimmel’s Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock, offers up an opportunity for pushing past mere moralizing toward more nuanced conversations about when tricks cross over into deception territory--and even when a seemingly harmless little lie may not be seen as such by others. 

 

E.B. Lewis / G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers

Of all the difficult subjects deserving of discussion with children, race and racism are perhaps the most required, and least easy to address.

Jon Scieszka / Puffin Books

The big bad wolf shows up in many forms in children’s stories--even disguised as grandma--with the intention of teaching children to be wary of the bad guys out there. But is the big bad wolf really all that big and bad, or has he just been given a bad rap? And when we paint the bad guy with so broad a stroke, might we fostering binary thinking? 

Little Voices, Big Ideas: The Giving Tree

Dec 2, 2020

Episode 2 of “Little Voices, Big Ideas,” makes the case for discussing the big ideas found in the book that everyone loves to love--or loves to hate--Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree.

Criticized for its seeming endorsement of feminine/maternal stereotypes, the book, argues our panel, nonetheless presents parents and children with a unique opportunity to hone critical thinking skills, and to discuss sustainability.