10 Youth Novels to Commemorate the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

Likely StoriesThough 10 years have passed since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the aftereffects of the storm still reverberate in the region. While most young readers will have little to no memories of the event, the tenth anniversary of the disaster is sure to generate lots of new discussion. Those curious about the hurricane will find plenty of insight in these fictional accounts of kids who experience firsthand the harrowing storm and its aftermath.

Finding Someplace bookAnother Kind of Hurricane, By Tamara Ellis Smith

Henry, a 10-year-old boy living in Vermont, has just lost his best friend in a tragic accident. Zavion, a 10-year-old boy living in New Orleans, has just lost his home in Hurricane Katrina. Through a series of coincidences, the two boys meet, and their stories collide. In this deceptively simple tale, grief and guilt act as constant companions to Henry and Zavion, who are haunted by their losses.

Finding Someplace, By Denise Lewis Patrick

Living in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, aspiring fashion designer Reesie plans to spend her thirteenth birthday party debuting a special dress she. Even the worry of Hurricane Katrina can’t dampen her excitement, buy by the time they realize it’s a real threat, it’s too late to evacuate. Patrick captures Reesie’s terror in ways young readers will relate to.

Hurricane Song, By Paul Volponi

After reluctantly moving to New Orleans, Miles focuses on making the football team and dreams of someday playing in the Superdome. That dream becomes a nightmare when Miles must seek refuge there from Hurricane Katrina. Volponi pulls no punches in his visceral depiction of a place that became, as he suggests, an appalling combination of homeless shelter, war zone, and slave ship.

Ninth Ward, By Jewell Parker Rhodes

Twelve-year-old Lanesha’s teenage mother died while giving birth to her, and she is raised in the Ninth Ward by loving Mama Ya-Ya, 82, who feels like her “mother and grandmother both.” As the storm nears and the call comes for mandatory evacuation, Mama Ya-Ya envisions that she will not survive, but Lanesha escapes the rising water in a small rowboat and even rescues others along the way.

Ninth WardA Place Where Hurricanes Happen,  By Renee Watson and illustrated by Shadra Strickland

In free verse, four young friends on a New Orleans street speak in alternating voices about the storm. First there is the fun they have together in the neighborhood, then the tension and terror as the hurricane approaches, and then finally the devastation that follows. Both the words and pictures personalize the events.

Ruby’s Imagine, By Kim Antieau

Ruby is a child of nature, even in the heart of her New Orleans neighborhood that her grandmother, Mammaloose, refuses to call a “ward.” Ruby’s animal friends let her know that “a Big Spin” is coming, but stubborn Mammaloose refuses to heed such fanciful communication. Then Hurricane Katrina arrives, tearing the roof off their house and exposing their attic shelter, along with a host of family secrets.

Saint Louis Armstrong Beach, By Brenda Woods

Saint Louis Armstrong Beach, an almost-12-year-old, is saving his money for a Leblanc L1020 clarinet and a Juilliard education. In a strong, first-person voice that carries the rhythms of the New Orleans music he loves so much, Saint relates his experiences before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina. As the water rises, so does the suspense, and Woods packs her novel with stark details that make both the devastation and the danger clear.

A Storm Called Katrina, By Myron Uhlberg and illustrated by Colin Bootman

When 10-year-old Louis Daniel and his family have to escape their home as Katrina rages outside, he grabs his most important possession, his cornet, and he and his parents eventually arrive at the Superdome, where they’re told they’ll be safe. Once inside, though, they disappear into an inky, stinky arena, where men fight over water bottles.

Upside DownUpside Down in the Middle of Nowhere, By Julie T. Lamana

Armani tells the story of the week she turned 10, when Hurricane Katrina arrived and destroyed her world. She watches family members die and disappear, and she’s forced to make huge decisions alone. Readers will recognize her self-absorbed focus on her upcoming birthday, sympathize with her frequent bouts of despair, and appreciate the internalized, motivating voices of her family.

Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina, By Rodman Philbrick

Thirteen-year-old Zane Dupree travels to New Orleans to visit his great-grandmother. But almost as soon as he arrives, he’s caught up in the turmoil of Hurricane Katrina, separated from family, and left on his own to survive. Zane, together with some other survivors, faces myriad difficulties, from terrifying swirls of snakes in the putrid floodwater to organized militia “protecting” affluent neighborhoods from looters.



About the Author:

When Sarah Hunter is not reading for her job as senior editor at Booklist, she's baking something tasty or planning trips to the Pacific Northwest. Follow her on Twitter at @SarahBearHunter.

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