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Help Support Gumbo Yah-Yah’s Kickstarter Project for Post-Katrina New Orleans

September 11, 2011

Gumbo Yah-Yah the Blue Alligator is pleased to announce that his children’s book project has been accepted by the crowd-sourced funding site,, in this 6th anniversary year following Hurricane Katrina.  If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, go check it out–it has been a huge boon to the creative community since it came out a year or two ago.

So, if you’re reading this post, please help support Chris in his effort to bring more resources to the book project.  You can help support with a donation of as little as $1.  No amount of support is too small, because (as Gumbo would say) everyone can help even though they may be only a little blue alligator.

We’ve had great feedback over the last several months, as you can read below in some of my earlier blog posts.  But, as we are an independent book project, there is a continuing need for support and media attention to keep the work fresh on everyone’s mind. 

As we come upon the 10th anniversary of September 11, we should think about all that has happened over the last ten years and the many ways that Americans have joined together to assist one another: through terrorist attacks, war, hurricanes, droughts, floods, earthquakes and fires.  In many places, the needs are still fresh and, in many other places such as New Orleans, the needs will be ongoing for some time to come. 

If you don’t believe me, you need only go visit the wonderful work the CNN Hero of the Year and St. Bernard Project Co-Founder Liz McCartney and Co-Founder Zack Rosenburg are doing rebuilding homes and providing services to local families.  They have been stalwart in their determination and unwavering in their work for success, but the needs truly are monumental still in many areas of greater New Orleans and the Gulf Coast and any bit you can provide helps.  Trust me on that.

I want to thank all of you in advance for your support and kind words of encouragement since we began this project.  But, we have a ways to go.  so, with that said, please help support the Kickstarter project at because your assistance can help to continue to rebuild, educate and preserve the post-Katrina community in the greater New Orleans community.


Gumbo Yah-Yah the Blue Alligator: From Concept Sketches to Final Drawings

August 27, 2011

Gumbo thought it would be fun for all to see how he came to be.  So, I’ve added the initial concept sketches, working drawings and final line drawings for several of the illustrations for the book.  I hope that you all enjoy how an idea comes to life.

The drawings above became the frontispiece for the book.  The one’s below are of Big Mama Marlo Yah-Yah at her big cookpot making her world-famous spicey crawfish etouffee.

As Katrina’s 6th Anniversary Arrives, Gumbo Yah-Yah the Blue Alligator is Hope That You Can Believe In

August 27, 2011

As we approach the 6th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation it wrought on the Gulf Coast and the City of New Orleans, its important to remember that a lot of good has been accomplished in bringing the region back from its darkest, lowest moments.  With that said, there is still an incredible amount of work to be accomplished and the four groups that the Gumbo book supports are doing incredible work rebuilding, educating and preserving the post-Katrina community.

In honor of that, and with tongue planted firmly in scaley, reptilian cheek, we provide you with Gumbo’s poster of “Hope” as a sign for the certain je ne sais quoi that he represents.  In these uncertain times, the hope, perseverance and willingness to help others is “Hope That You Can Believe In.”

So, support Gumbo and his book.  Support the four causes that Gumbo believes in and remember that there is still a lot of work to be done, but with your help New Orleans and the Gulf Coast will be better than ever.

Gumbo Hope Drawing

Gumbo Yah-Yah the Blue Alligator and the Big Storm and Harry Shearer’s New Film, The Big Uneasy

April 27, 2011

The other night I attended the Atlanta premiere of Harry Shearer’s new documentary film, “The Big Uneasy,” which opened at the Lefont Theater in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs. The film had received several days of publicity through the local NPR-affiliate, WABE, and Harry Shearer was going to be attending. Needless to say, as the author of “The Story of Gumbo Yah-Yah the Blue Alligator and the Big Storm,” I was intrigued to see what Shearer – the part-time New Orleans resident-comedian-musician-actor-voice & radio personality, etc. – had to say about why New Orleans (a.k.a., “The Big Easy”) had flooded.

The event was sponsored in part by the nonprofit organization, the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, with Communications Director David Lee Simmons performing the introductions and proceeds from the night going to support UCR. Atlanta’s own craft brewery, SweetWater Brewing Co., provided free beers to the 150 or so “VIP” attendees, which was greatly appreciated by the crowd (and much in keeping with a New Orleans-themed film). In addition to Shearer, the film’s editor, Tom Roche, a former Tallahassean-turned-Atlantan who had helped create some of the early REM videos, was also attending.

Appropriately enough for a film and evening associated with water, coming to the theater meant braving a torrential downpour – part of the same storm line that has been wreaking havoc across the Southeast – in order to arrive on time. From the outset, Shearer and Roche were laid-back and approachable to the crowd, many of whom voiced there appreciation for Shearer’s role in the “mock-umentary” film, “This Is Spinal Tap,” and as the voices of the characters of Mr. Burns, Smithers and Ned Flanders in the television cartoon comedy series, “The Simpsons,” among many other credits.

As you watch the film, which was written and directed by Shearer, you quickly realize that this is not a vehicle to promote himself and it really intends to get at the heart of what caused the levees built around the city to fail. The film, which is narrated in part by another actor-turned New Orleans resident, Brad Pitt, and has a guest appearance from actor John Goodman (a long-time New Orleans resident), who himself has done much to raise awareness of the problems caused by both Hurricane Katrina and the BP Gulf Oil Spill.

The film delves into the engineering failures of the levee-system managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers, referred to locally as simply “the Corps,” during the storm. It interviews in great detail the nationally-prominent engineers that were tasked by the State of Louisiana, using in part a National Science Foundation grant, with assessing the performance of the levees and what were the engineering causes of the failures and the consequences of their findings that the flooding that destroyed tens of thousands of houses and thousands of lives was avoidable had these barriers to flooding been properly built and maintained. Several of the engineers that published their findings (some are available at the film’s website,, under the “Resources” section) have now been ostracized by many in the professional engineering community and have suffered poor health from the stress and the loss of their jobs – all for telling what they believed to be solid, scientifically-based facts.

After the film, there was an extended question-and-answer session with Shearer and Roche moderated by UCR’s Simmons. Shearer notes that he felt compelled to create the film because – though much of this information has gone out in one form or another – it has never been presented comprehensively to the public in a single narrative. He indicated that wherever he has shown the film, particularly in Europe, he has been told that the members of the audience that approach him are “shocked” and angry.

In the end, Shearer has gone out to make a film that leaves the viewer uneasy about what has gone on in the Big Easy and what appears to be a cover-up of the failures of a system that produced this catastrophe. The film is a must-see for anyone that cares about the city and culture of New Orleans, not as a piece of entertainment but as the beginning of a larger national conversation about how we as a nation respond to any of our fellow citizens in need. As the storms of this week are demonstrating, there are thousands of miles of levees maintained elsewhere along the Mississippi River and other water bodies and some of the ones in Missouri, for instance, began failing today.

The film is screening at the Lefont Theater, Sandy Springs ( through April 30. Please also take a look at Gumbo’s website:; if you haven’t purchased a book, consider doing so as proceeds go back to four charities that are rebuilding, educating and preserving post-Katrina New Orleans.

New Orleans Times-Picayune Book Critic Suzanne Stouse Selects Gumbo Yah-Yah the Blue Alligator as One of This Week’s “Hot Reads”

April 4, 2011

Gumbo Yah-Yah is all a ga-ga over New Orleans Times-Picayune book critic Suzanne Stouse’s pick of his story, “The Story of Gumbo Yah-Yah the Blue Alligator and the Big Storm,” as penned by his friend Christopher Eck, as one of this week’s “Hot Reads!” Oooo-weee, dawlin’, the Blue Gator is tickled pink!

Madame Stouse, “mon nouvel meilleur ami,” in her column “Hot Reads,” writes:

“Big Daddy” Yah-Yah and Mrs. Marlo “Big Mama” Yah-Yah have 13 fine sons, but the youngest gator is a shade different from his brothers — as in very, very BLUE. Former Orleanian Eck’s adaptation of a Katrina story he wrote for his 3-year-old daughter follows Gumbo as he runs away from his siblings’ teasing — and smack into the Big Storm. Because he learns to put his problems in perspective and to help those in need, Gumbo is a lot like the Katrina volunteers praised in the foreword by 2008 CNN “Hero of the Year” Liz McCartney, co-founder of the St. Bernard Project. All proceeds from the book go toward that program and area schools, the Preservation Resource Center, and Loyola University’s Monroe Library and Center for the Study of New Orleans. The book is available at Garden District Book Shop and Loyola’s book store, and through”

Merci, Madame Stouse. Merci beaucoup.

Gumbo’s Story Is a Big Hit with Atlanta-Area Third Graders

March 15, 2011

Author Christopher Eck with young fans of Gumbo Yah-Yah at Garrison Mill Elementary School.

Gumbo Yah-Yah the Blue Alligator was thrilled when his friend and author, Christopher Eck, read his story to Third Graders in the Atlanta-suburb of Marietta. Chris attended Mrs. Moore’s class at Garrison Mill Elementary School north of the city in east Cobb County. He was surprised to find that a number of the students in the class has connections to New Orleans, some of whom had moved to the area after Katrina.

The reading was followed by lots and lots of questions from the curious students. Many of them later wrote thank you notes to Chris and he wanted me to share a few snippets from some of these letters with all y’all. Because Chris and I found many of these notes both heartfelt and funny, the original spelling has been kept. Here you go:

“Dear Mr. Eck, Thank you for reading your new book to us. You are so nice for donating your book money to people ineed in New Orleans. I truely thought that the book was really, really good. You are a really good author. If you got to pick to work for the Falcons or Saints? Your smart, cool and and like sports so it feels like we are close friends. Sincerely, Charlie”

“Dear Mr. Eck, I loved your book. I my want to give a copy to my Meme, Aunt Melanie, Cousin Bradly and my Cousin Carson. My favorite part was when he helped the people of New Orleans even thow he was small. That was a very brave thing for Gumbo to do. I love the book. Sincerely, Kayla P.S. Are you going to write more books.”

“Dear Mr. Eck, I really liked the story because, it was not about a green alegator it was about a blue one. I also liked that he can talk to people. I really liked the book. Sincerely, Carter”

“Dear Mr. Eck, I loved your book. It was the best book in the world. My favorite part was when gumbo yah yah hatched. He was so cute. Your book was awesome. I bet that you had som much much fun creating Gumbo yah yah and his twelve brother plus big mama and big daddy. The end. Sincerly, Emili”

“Dear Mr. Eck, Your book was great, inspiring, and fun. I think you should make a series. I thik they should be about school, football, and kindness. Thank you for reading to us. Sincerely, Cayman P.S. The red head kid.”

“Dear Mr. Eck, Thank you for reading your New book to us. It was really good. I like how you named the brothers names named Jimbo, Jumbo, Limbo, Lumpo, Hippo, Harpo, Mimbo, Mumbo, Blimpo, Bumpo, Gimbo, Gambo, Gumbo. I like how you made Gumbo blue. I also liked how you made the fish folow Gumbo. Sincerely, Brittany”

“Dear Mr. Eck, I want to thank you for coming I really enjoyed it. I liked how you weren’t shy of reading it. I have one big question do you enjoy makeing books? Love, Lily”

“Dear Mr. Eck, I loved that book. It was nice seeing you again. Are you Gumbo Ya Ya? Did it really start of as a bed time story? How bad was the storm? I bet it was terrible. Sincerely, Gia”

“Dear Mr. Eck, Thank you for reading your new book to us. I really liked it. I can’t believe you drew the pictures by yourself! Now I’m really in the mood for chocolate milk. Will you make another book about Gumbo? If you do, I will read it. I’m sure that the people you’re donating to in New Orleans are very lucky. Sincerely, Perry”

“Dear Mr. Eck, Thank you for coming to read to us and takeing out of your day. I really enjoyed the book. I hope you make new books too. I think you are an amazing writer. I have always wanted to write a book and get it published. Do you think you will become a famous writer? When did you have enough time to write the book? I wrote a story on notebook paper called All Better. It was a little sad but in the end everything is All better!! Sincerely, Rachel”

* * *

To learn more about Gumbo Yah-Yah, visit

Gumbo Learns that the Magazine School Nurse News Recommends Buying His New Children’s Book

January 15, 2011

Gumbo Yah-Yah the Blue Alligator was pleased to learn that the national magazine, School Nurse News, has recommended “The Story of Gumbo Yah-Yah the Blue Alligator and the Big Storm” as a book to buy for kids for its “plain and simple story” and clear message of hope and working together. In its January 2011 issue, the magazine has also posted a giveaway of a signed copy of the book which can be found at this web link:

Gumbo hopes that every sick kid in every school gets a chance to read his acclaimed new children’s book while waiting to get prodded and probed by the school nurse at his or her local learning institution. Gumbo merely asks that if any of his young fans are reading his work then they are courteous to it and don’t get it all smudged up with icky drippings or food or drink. His young readers need also to be reminded that the proceeds from the book are going to support four New Orleans-area charitbale organizations that are helping to rebuild, educate, preserve the area’s unique culture and community: Archdiocese of New Orleans Catholic Schools, Saint Bernard project, Loyola University’s Monroe Library and Center for the Study of New Orleans, and the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans.

For more information see: