by Lisa Sandoz Robinson @LoveTheLibrary1
I’ll never forget the night that Katrina made landfall in New Orleans. I stayed up into the early hours of August 29 watching the weather channel. I stayed up long enough to think that my father’s birthplace and my cousin’s hometown had survived the storm. When I turned the television back on the next morning to get an update, I was horrified to see the images of water pouring through the levees into the streets of New Orleans. I could not believe the catastrophe, the nightmare that was unfolding before my eyes.
This week, I decided to read the Texas Bluebonnet nominee Zane and the Hurricane: A Katrina Story in honor of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. What better way for an elementary school librarian to commemorate the lives that were lost or changed forever by this devastating storm? So I sat down with the book yesterday morning and found it so gripping that I could hardly put it down until I finished it last night.
The protagonist of the novel is Zane Dupree, a 12 year old boy who has lived in New Hampshire his whole life but whose father grew up in New Orleans. Zane and his dog Bandy travel to his father’s hometown to spend a week with his newly-found great-grandmother, Miss Trissy. It turns out to be the worst possible week for a visit as Zane and Bandy get stranded in New Orleans and are forced to face the full force of Katrina and its aftermath. There is a wonderfully spunky girl character named Malvina Rawlins who joins forces with Zane and Bandy. The children and Bandy are accompanied by a jazz trumpet player named Trudell Manning as they search for a safe spot in the madness that engulfs New Orleans.
This book is very vivid in its description of the storm and the devastation it wrought. For those of us who rode out Hurricane Ike here in Houston, the description of the storm is eerily accurate. “The hurricane keeps on coming. On and on it roars by like an insane train that never seems to end.”
But the heart of the book focuses on the aftermath, or the Great Flood, as the author Rodman Philbrick calls the inundation of New Orleans in the timeline at the end of the book. While Philbrick does a great job describing some horrific scenes in ways that are not too graphic for the target audience (ages 10-14), parents should take into account the sensitivities of their own children. Floating bodies, swarms of water moccasins, drug addiction and a drug lord, gunshots and other realities of this terrible disaster are all part of the story from which Philbrick does not flinch.
I highly recommend this Bluebonnet-nominated book for 5th graders through 8th graders as well as mature 4th graders who are not too sensitive to some of the more graphic elements of the story. This work of historical fiction is a great way for children to learn what the victims of this terrible disaster went through to survive. Even better, parents should read Zane and the Hurricane with their kids so that families can discuss together the important issues raised by the book.
You can find a copy of Zane and the Hurricane: A Katrina Story and other Bluebonnet books at Tomfoolery Toys and Books!