Michael Tisserand | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Michael Tisserand 

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"This hurricane is long," says second grader Cecilia to her father, Michael Tisserand, as they survey their devastated New Orleans neighborhood six weeks after Katrina. Tisserand and his family evacuated before the storm hit and now live in Evanston; his new book, Sugarcane Academy, is a thoughtful look at just how long the hurricane continues to last. The title refers to the one-room school started 135 miles from home by Tisserand and a handful of evacuee families. Run by a dedicated, unorthodox elementary school teacher, the academy taught math, reading, art, and science, but it also gave a bunch of uprooted and scared kids a much-needed oasis of stability. The book tells the stories of Sugarcane's students and of other children of the Katrina diaspora, whose summer vacation tales are of dead relatives and drowned pets rather than ice cream and camping. Though Tisserand--until August 2005 the editor of the New Orleans alternative paper Gambit Weekly--gets in some jabs at the feds, for the most part he stays focused on his small subjects and the improvising, determined grown-ups in their lives, reporting in quiet, economical prose how kids too little to fully articulate their losses learn to cope. a Mon 8/27, 7:30 PM, Barnes & Noble, 55 Old Orchard Center, Skokie, 847-676-2230; Wed 8/29, 7 PM, Book Cellar, 4736 N. Lincoln, 773-293-2665; Thu 8/30, 7 PM, Barnes & Noble, 1630 Sherman, Evanston, 847-424-0848. --Martha Bayne

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