I had intended to post this one earlier this morning, as it's the 7th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall in South Louisiana, but I found myself without power for an extended period of time due to Hurricane (now Tropical Storm) Isaac. I'm typing this review while on an air mattress in a relative's guest room, and I can't help but think back to August 29, 2005 and the days, weeks, and months that followed. A conversation with one my students earlier this week reminded me that although many of my middle schoolers don't remember vividly what happened 7 years ago, they do remember how their lives changed because of it. I thought it would be appropriate to review Paul Volponi's Hurricane Song, which is the fictional account of a teenager who was in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck. It is vivid, poignant, and even a little haunting.
Title: Hurricane Song
Author: Paul Volponi
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Publication Date: June 12, 2008
AR Levels: Interest Level--4th to 8th; Reading Level--5.4; Points--4.0
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2302929.Hurricane_Song
In a nutshell: Sixteen-year old Miles just moved across the country to live with his jazz musician father in New Orleans. Their relationship had been almost nonexistent, but with his mom getting remarried and new kids moving in the house, he knew he needed to give his dad a second chance. After only a few months, their new relationship is tested by one of the worst natural disasters New Orleans has ever seen--Hurricane Katrina. Getting out of town proves to be very difficult with heavy traffic and a broken down car, so they end up at the Superdome, one of the city's most iconic venues that turns out to be a scene of devastation, destruction, and despair. Can their relationship survive the storm, but more importantly, can they survive the storm?
I'd recommend it for grades: 8th - 12th+. There is some language and mature content; plus some of the events of the story may be disturbing.
I'd recommend it to: Anyone who wants to see what the center of the storm was like for the poorest of the poor and anyone who enjoys reading about dealing with obstacles and adversity.
What I liked most about this book: This book doesn't sugarcoat what happened in the aftermath of the storm, but it also doesn't read like a documentary account. Hurricane Song challenges you to think not only about the characters in the story, but also about the bigger issues that were the cause of many misfortunes during this tragic event.
Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): I loved that the lyrics to "When the Saints Go Marching In" were placed throughout the book.
Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): I'll say 4 stars. It isn't perfect and seems rushed at times, but what is there packs an emotional wallop.