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A Storm Called Katrina

A Storm Called Katrina - Myron Uhlberg, Colin Bootman 6/25/11 ** Book-a-Day: D28, Bk 33 ** When a book moves you to tears, it's got to be a 5 star. This is the tale of Louis and the day the levees broke in New Orleans. Daddy said, "Water's rising fast, we've got to get out of here." There was just time for ten-year old Louis to grab his brass cornet from the table as they plunged through the water covering their stoop. In subsequent pages, Louis's family paddle on a piece of someone's porch, passing a tail-wagging dog and a floating "pile of clothes," until they reach the higher ground near the Superdome. Louis begins to feel hope because everyone said they'd be safe in the Dome.

As a reader I felt that I was reading this stunningly-illustrated text on more than one level. I could understand Louis's compassion for the dog, but I also know what happened to so many pets that had to be left behind. I recognized Louis's optimism as they neared the Dome; after all, surely such a massive structure would be safe. However, I also know how brutal the conditions there were. My sense of tension ratcheted higher as Louis and his family reached this presumed safety.

As anticipated, something bad does happen in the dome - Louis and his mother and father all get separated from each other. The family is reunited through Louis's ingenuity - he takes his cornet to the center of the dome and begins playing, providing a rallying point for his parents. Children will like this sense of resilience and control that Louis shows.

A Storm Called Katrina poignantly hints at some of the worst ways in which the storm impacted New Orleans residents, human and animal, while also showing their strength. This book is a must read, and be sure to to allow time to pore over Colin Bootman's oil on wood paintings.

6/26/11 ** Will see the author today and have a brand new copy illustrated. Can't wait. :)

I was fascinated to meet and talk with Myron Uhlberg about his writing process. He'd been to New Orleans for ALA in 2006. During that conference, he and Colin Bootman (illustrator) visited the Ninth Ward and discussed ideas for this project. Uhlberg had watched all the television coverage and wondered how parents were explaining the Katrina disaster to their children. He sought a story that would help mediate the television coverage - help make the disaster understandable to those who hadn't been there.