There have been a lot of books written in the aftermath and about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and what the failure of the levee systems built by the Corps of Engineers had wrought upon on New Orleans. Some books are scientific, others fictional and some of them memoirs. Now there’s a children’s book, When Hurricane Katrina Hit Home.
When Hurricane Katrina Hit Home – Young Folks Tale of Courage and Survival – Review
New Orleans eight years after the deluge is considered now to be the comeback city of America. Forbes calls us the best city to start a new business. Now entrepreneurs are flocking here.
Also, we are a top tourist destination, and things are looking really bright for us.
We got a great mayor and folks who have dived in, local and out-of-towners, to really make this place a bright spot in America, an American city reborn and better than ever.
What the hurricane did was thrust people into situations of which they never would have dreamed. Many people succumbed and let the circumstances beat them down but others were able to rise above the challenge and actually become heroes in their own right.
What could be a better idea for a young people’s book than giving the Katrina story to two kids and their families, black and white, Christian and Jewish, from opposite ends of the economic spectrum and throwing them together where they would have to depend on each other to survive.
That’s what Gail Langer Karwoski has done in her new book When Hurricane Katrina Hit Home. She’s done her research and actually interviewed kids to get their stories about what happened to them when the city flooded and how they came through it all.
Masterfully she has woven these accounts together into a tale that smacks of authenticity and told through the voices and viewpoints of the two main characters: Lyric, the little black girl from the Lower Ninth Ward, and Chazz, the Jewish kid from the Garden District.
The characters’ accounts are vivid and put you right there in the action. So much so that when I started reading the book I did not want to put it down. Yep, it’s a page turner alright. And even though I have my own Katrina story to tell, not nearly as dramatic as this one, still I could empathize with what’s going on because we suffered through having to see on television the harrowing rescues of our own citizens.
And I can remember driving through the Ninth Ward after the storm and seeing the massive destruction. The only thing I can equate it to was the feeling of being punched in the gut, a visceral reaction experienced by many who were able to get a glimpse of that once vibrant neighborhood where a majority of the black folk actually owned their own homes, and was the spawning ground of such famous and groundbreaking musicians as Fats Domino who still lives there.
This book has its own harrowing story tell and many of the scenes are not pretty. The author pulls no punches. This is a story that is as real as it could possibly be and is ultimately uplifting in the end because the main characters of the young people portrayed have to dig deep and call upon their own inner resources and knowledge of what’s right and what’s wrong to survive with their honor in tact. The words of one of the main characters help them to get through: Always focus on hopeful.
Here’s an excerpt from the book:
I spent the rest of Saturday getting ready. Following Adele’s directions, I taped all the windows. She said that running two lengths of tape in a large X would keep the glass from shattering in the high winds.
“But I closed the shutters. That won’t be enough to protect them?”
“Okay, let me guess,” I said. “Just in case.”
I stoppered the bathtubs and filled them so we’d have water for washing and flushing—just in case. Then I helped Adele box up photos and important papers in plastic bins, and I carried them up to the attic.
I packed a suitcase with some clothes for me. I put it and Adele’s suitcase in the front hall, where we could grab them quick. I brought down my clarinet, which had belonged to Grandpa Charles. No way was I leaving that behind. Then I helped Adele gather food and drinks for the road.
Soon there was nothing left to do. We settled in the den with pimento cheese sandwiches and waited, for Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Leah—whichever blew in first.
By late afternoon, the TV news reported that all traffic entering New Orleans was being turned around. In order to ease congestion, all highways had been converted to one-way roads out of the city.
Adele and I looked at each other, and we both said, “Leah” at the same time.
She picked up the phone and punched in Leah’s number. I could hear the blast of rock music that signaled Leah’s message, so I motioned for the phone. I punched in Leah’s number again. More rock music. And again.
Adele looked at me, her eyebrows raised.
“If I annoy her enough, I bet she’ll pick up.” On the ninth try, I heard the click of Leah answering.
“Bingo,” I said and handed Adele the phone.
“Leah, they’ve shut down the highways coming into the city,” Adele said. “Where are you?” Pause. “No, they won’t let you through now. Stay there, understand? Don’t come any farther. Get a motel room. Yes, put it on my credit card.” Pause. “I don’t know what we’re going to do. If we have to leave, we’ll come to you. Oh, and Leah—keep the phone with you. And answer it.”
“So we’re going to ride it out?” I said after she hung up.
Adele nodded, biting her lip. “I have a bad feeling about this, Chazz.”
This is a great morality tale using the backdrop of Katrina, that storm of the century. Although written for young people, When Hurricane Hit Home is something that adults would absolutely enjoy and open their eyes to and give them an experience of some of the circumstances that thousands had to endure in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Buy the book at Amazon.