Gumbo Kelly has a story or two for you

By Wayne Duggan

Most businesses around the world were forced to adapt their approach in 2020 because of the pandemic. For the Biloxi Public Library, social distancing meant no more Thursday morning storytelling sessions with children’s librarian Kelly Derouen.

But instead of shutting down all together, the librarian the kids affectionately call “Gumbo Kelly” decided to use her background in art and her work experience in graphics to take a 21st Century approach to her storytelling. Derouen began working on producing, illustrating and narrating storytelling videos the children could watch from home on the library’s Facebook page.

This month, BTV, the city’s municipal TV channel, launched “Storytime with Gumbo Kelly,” a 13-minute collection of Derouen’s stories. You can see it at 7:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. daily on Sparklight 56, AT&T UVerse 99 or at

“Sitting at home, it started out with my phone, taking about 500 pictures to make some little stop-motion videos and voicing it over,” Derouen says. Derouen was hoping that by posting the videos on Facebook, some of the parents would see them and show them to their kids.

“I wasn’t sure if it was being seen by kids at all until I started slacking on it a little, and then I had people telling me the kids were asking when I would have another cartoon coming out,” she said.

Derouen even spent her economic stimulus check on a new computer to work on improving the quality of the videos.

In addition to narrating popular children’s books on video, Gumbo Kelly’s biggest hit is her original series of stories featuring the “Causeway Critters.”

Derouen writes and illustrates stories showcasing the local wildlife she grew up with here in the Biloxi area. In the most recent Causeway Critters story, a jolly red pelican and his eight flying alligators deliver Christmas presents to Kirby the Crab, Fred the Crane and all the other local critters.

“At the beginning of the pandemic when I started doing the Causeway Critters, I was trying to get the kids to know they could go out and see the wildlife themselves. The causeway is just a wonderful spot for it all,” she says.

Derouen’s passion for her writing and storytelling sessions are inspired by books that impacted her as a child. Her favorite childhood book was “Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose” by Dr. Seuss.
See BTV schedule for January
See BTV online now

News & notes: Election info, council TV

Voter information: Since Monday, 10 people, including Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich, have filed paperwork with the city municipal clerk expressing their intent to be a candidates in the upcoming city elections. See the city’s Voter Information page by clicking here.

Council TV: You can see a replay of the City Council meeting from Tuesday this evening at 9 on BTV. You can also see the meeting and an archive of council meetings on the city’s YouTube page by clicking here.