July 29, 2004 12:28PM
Dolls come to life in book
By JEWEL BUSH
Do you believe in the land of Sha Bebe?
If you didnít before, chances are after reading Mary Lynn Plaisanceís debut book, "In the Land of Sha Bebe," you might believe, or at least wish there was such a place where dolls rushed to comfort humans during trying, emotional times.
Plaisance, born and raised in Mathews, released the self-published effort in June. The bookís characters are based on the handcrafted, Cajun Sha Bebe dolls Plaisance has made since 1991.
The ink-face, muslin-fashioned dolls are sold in Plaisanceís Mathews craft store, BeBís Place, which opened in summer 2001. The storeís building is actually Plaisanceís great-grandmotherís old house.
Plaisance has several collections of her dolls, copyrighted in 1993, including the "Sugar Mill" line; a tribute to her familyís strong ties to the sugarcane farming and processing industry.
"In the Land of Sha Bebe," a $19.95 soft cover, tells the story of rag dolls Jolie and Beau, who are born in the magical sugar-cane fields of Louisiana. The dolls are born to Madame Plume and are taught manners by Miss Betty Lou.
The Sugar Mill Ladies take care of and cook for all the Jolies and the Beaus, before the problem-solving dolls are sent out into the world to tackle their missions.
The book, in the adult folklore category, is cloaked in Cajun culture and heritage as Jolie and Beau leave the magical land on a flying quilt, made by Madame Poulette.
In this tale, Jolie and Beau comfort an adult Emily, who is overcome with grief after her fatherís death.
Writing this story, first-time author Plaisance said it was like therapy. In 1991, Plaisance lost her father, whom she was extremely close to.
"I loved my fatherís sense of humor. Him and I could laugh and laugh. It took me 10 years, after his death, to talk about him. When I was writing it down, I didnít realize how much of me came out. I cried when I wrote the book," she said.
"Itís really a story about when things change. They donít stay the same. You have to accept the changes that come into your life."
"In the Land of Sha Bebe" is available at BeBís Place, the Terrebonne Parish Main Library, the Lockport Library, the Welcome Center in Mathews and La Cajun Stuff in Southland Mall.
The book, which features pictures of Plaisanceís dolls, may also be purchased from www.shabebe.com.
On Aug. 14 from 1-4 p.m., Plaisance will have a book signing at BeBís Place. Her annual arts festival, BeBís Fest, is Nov. 21.
For information, call Plaisance at 532-5979.
Plaisance is working to have her debut on the shelves of other local retailers, and plans to draft additional tales about the Cajun angels Jolie and Beau.
Staff writer Jewel Bush can be reached at 857-2207 or jewel.bush.houmatoday.com.
The Houma Courier and The Daily Comet.