Natural and man-made disasters are becoming more commonplace in children's lives, and this touching free-verse picture book provides a straightforward account of Hurricane Katrina. In alternating voices, four friends describe their lives before, during, and after the storm and how, even though the world can change in a heartbeat, people define the character of their community and offer one another comfort and hope even in the darkest hours.
Adrienne, Keesha, Michael, and Tommy have been friends for forever. They live on the same street—a street in New Orleans where everyone knows everybody. They play together all day long, every chance they get. It's always been that way. But then people start talking about a storm headed straight for New Orleans. The kids must part ways, since each family deals with Hurricane Katrina in a different manner. And suddenly everything that felt like home is gone.
Renée Watson's lyrical free verse is perfectly matched in Shadra Strickland's vivid mixed media art. Together they celebrate the spirit and resiliency of New Orleans, especially its children.
Strickland's (Bird) quietly powerful watercolors make this story of four fictional Ninth Ward children caught in Hurricane Katrina especially affecting. As firsttime author Watson moves among the perspectives of the children--Adrienne, Michael, Keesha, and Tommy--Strickland presents scenes of everyday life, the fearsomeness of the storm itself (a wordless spread shows blocks of tidy houses up to their roofs in water), the wreckage, and the rebuilding. Before Katrina, the children play hide-and-seek and ride their bicycles together. They know Katrina is coming, but expect little harm: "The sky don't look gray at all./ Seems like the sun is gonna shine forever," says Adrienne. Some relocate, some remain, though the children are reunited in a homecoming that brings muted joy; some of their neighbors are gone forever. But Katrina is not all there is of New Orleans, and when they gather in their much-changed neighborhood a year later, they agree: "We're from New Orleans,/ a place where hurricanes happen./ But that's only the bad side." In the same way, although Watson's story delivers some difficult emotional blows, it has plenty of sweetness, too. Ages 7-10. (June)