“Zane and the Hurricane: A story of Katrina” Rodman Philbrick

Rated 5 stars ***** Published February 25, 2014. ARC. Blue Sky Press (Scholastic). Includes a map showing The Path of Hurricane Katrina, a Katrina Timeline 2005, Interesting Facts about New Orleans and the Great Flood and an Author’s Note.

ZaneandtheHurricaneThe horror of Hurricane Katrina, and the sufferings of the people of New Orleans, are told through the eyes of twelve-year old Zane Dupree.

Zane’s father was killed before he was born, so no one is more surprised than he when his mother insists he travel to New Orleans to spend time with Miss Trissy, a great-grandmother he never knew existed. He reluctantly agrees to go as long as his dog Bandit can come, but immediately hates the heat and smells of New Orleans.

It doesn’t take Miss Trissy long to set Zane straight on his heritage, reminding him he’s not “multiracial or biracial” as he’d previously called himself but is mixed. Even though Zane looks white she reminds him his dad’s face is what she sees, not his blond hair or green eyes. Zane had never looked at himself that way before, and this lesson is just the first in many he learns during his stay in New Orleans.

When news of an impending hurricane reaches them, they plan to evacuate. However Bandit runs away, Zane runs after him and is separated from Miss Trissy. When the hurricane hits, he and Bandit are stranded in Miss Trissy’s house as the floodwaters reach to the attic where they have gone for safety. He is rescued by a passing boat but soon learns the hurricane and the flood it generated affected thousands of lives besides his own. Half drowned, starving, and unable to find shelter anywhere, including in the overcrowded Super Dome, he and his rescuers stumble on seeking help that is short in coming.

“Zane and the Hurricane” uses real life events and accounts from real people to tell the story of the people of New Orleans who were abandoned by those in authority who should have helped but didn’t. Their sufferings during and after the storm are recounted for those who may have forgotten, or didn’t know about what happened that fateful day in 2005.

It is an eye-opening read and is recommended for readers aged 10-14.

“Out of the Easy” Ruta Sepetys

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published February 12, 2013. Philomel Books (Penguin). 348 pp.

OutoftheEasyHaving read Sepetys’ wonderful book “Between Shades of Gray,” I was eager to see what “Out of the Easy” had in store. After I wiped my tears at the end, all I could say was “Wow!” Yes, it was that good.

Forced to grow up before her time, Josie was her prostitute mother’s bartender by age 10, and living on her own by age 11. Her resourcefulness enabled her to avoid her mother’s way of life and focus on one day getting a chance to go to college. Between her bookstore job and housecleaning for Willie, a Madam who cares for her like the mother she never had, Josie finds herself involved in a murder mystery.

Despite wanting to keep her distance from her mother and everything she stands for, Josie finds herself drawn into the murder of a rich tourist. Her mother and mob friends are the primary suspects, with Josie soon finding herself underwater as lies weave a web that threaten to pull her into the smoldering world of New Orleans’ seamy underbelly.

Sepetys’ historical fiction story of everyday life in 1950’s New Orleans of a Madam and her House is hard hitting and very emotional. Readers aged 14 and older will find themselves drawn into Josie’s plight, wishing for her hard luck life to take a turn for the better. Her pain becomes our pain, and her joy our joy because Sepetys has created a believable character and events that draw in readers.

2014 UPDATE: Listed on the ALA (American Library Association’s) Best Fiction for Young Adults list (compiled by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) and on YALSA’s 2014 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults list.

“Buddy” M.H. Herlong

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). To be published September 13, 2012. Viking (Penguin). 296 pp.

When I began reading “Buddy” a few hours ago, I couldn’t put it down. It held my interest from the beginning, as should good books about good dogs. I will admit that, being a book about a dog, it made me cry. That seems to be a prerequisite when reading a book where a dog is the main character, and I’m sure it will make you cry too.

Li’l T is about to be 13 years old, and has always wanted a dog. When his father accidentally runs over a mangy dog, Li’l T takes it as a sign the dog is to be his and names him Buddy. From that day on, he and Buddy are inseparable. The family is poor, but Li’l T becomes quite enterprising in the ways he earns money for Buddy’s food. He loves Buddy, and Buddy loves him.

A few months later, the family has to leave their home in New Orleans because Hurricane Katrina is coming. They expect to return from Mississippi in a couple of days so, since their car is too small, they leave Buddy home. When Li’l T finds out that New Orleans is flooded and Buddy is gone, his heart is broken. It seems nothing can ever be the same again for Li’l T. His grandpa has died of a broken heart, while his home, friends and dog are all gone.

However, New Orleanians are tough. Rebuilding their homes and communities also includes rebuilding what once seemed to be lost forever. When Li’l T learns Buddy is not lost, he is ecstatic but will need a lot of help to get him back. It will take a village to put everyone’s life back on track, including his own.

Li’l T and Buddy’s story will make even the most stoic reader shed tears, not only for their story but for all that was lost, and found, during the devastation of Katrina. Students, especially boys aged 9-13, will enjoy Buddy’s story.