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What the Children Said - Child Lore of South Louisiana

What the Children Said

Child Lore of South Louisiana

By Jeanne Pitre Soileau
Series: Cultures of Childhood

Hardcover : 9781496835734, 346 pages, 1 map, August 2021
Paperback : 9781496835741, 346 pages, 1 map, August 2021

A deep exploration of children's play and its impact on learning race, history, and sexuality


Winner of the 2022 Opie Prize

Jeanne Pitre Soileau vividly presents children’s voices in What the Children Said: Child Lore of South Louisiana. Including over six hundred handclaps, chants, jokes, jump-rope rhymes, cheers, taunts, and teases, this book takes the reader through a fifty-year history of child speech as it has influenced children’s lives.

What the Children Said affirms that children's play in south Louisiana is acquired along a network of summer camps, schoolyards, church gatherings, and sleepovers with friends. When children travel, they obtain new games and rhymes and bring them home. The volume also reveals, in the words of the children themselves, how young people deal with racism and sexism. The children argue and outshout one another, policing their own conversations, stating their own prejudices, and vying with one another for dominion. The first transcript in the book tracks a conversation among three related boys and shows that racism is part of the family interchange. Among second-grade boys and girls at a Catholic school, another transcript presents numerous examples in which boys use insults to dominate a conversation with girls, and girls use giggles and sly comebacks to counter this aggression.

Though collected in the areas of New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette, Louisiana, this volume shows how south Louisiana child lore is connected to other English-speaking places: England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as the rest of the United States.


"What the Children Said is a significant contribution to the field of children’s folklore scholarship. Anthropologists, folklorists, and educators, as well as a curious public will find it of interest. "

- Anna R. Beresin, author of The Art of Play: Recess and the Practice of Invention and Recess Battles: Playing, Fighting, and Storytelling

"What the Children Said: Child Lore of South Louisiana includes more than 600 items of children’s folklore, many of which appear in transcripts of the author’s visits with children. Reading these transcripts helps us perceive the social context of the time when they were recorded, as well as the dynamics of children’s interaction."

- Elizabeth Tucker, Journal of American Folklore