Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina by Rodman Philbrick
Zane lives in New Hampshire with his mother and is sent to visit his newly discovered great grandmother in New Orleans. Unfortunately, he is there when Katrina hits. Headed out of the city with his grandmother’s pastor in their church van, Zane is safe until his little dog, Bandit jumps out of the open window because some larger dogs in another vehicle are barking at him. Zane goes after him, walking for miles until he catches him. Realizing he’s closer to his grandmother’s house than the vehicle, he heads back there. Then the storm comes. Zane is in a house that is leaking, the flood waters start to rise, and he climbs with Bandit up into the attic. From there he is rescued by an older musician wearing a wild looking hat and a young girl. As chaos descends on the city, Zane finds that all of the rules change but that it is human kindness that makes all the difference.
Philbrick has crafted a very well-written book about Katrina. He melds the details of the storm and its aftermath in New Orleans into the narrative, allowing it to form the backbone of the story. At the same time, this is Zane’s specific story, one of luck and bravery. The flooded city becomes the foundation of the tale, those happy to take advantage of the situation appear and the support of police is nearly nonexistent.
Philbrick’s story is very readable, the storm offering a structure to the book that readers will feel approaching in an inevitable and inescapable way. The beginning of the book is rife with dread and fear, knowing what is going to happen. That fear never lets up even after the storm has passed. Zane is a strong and resourceful character, one who is forced to trust others and their generosity. Race plays an important role in the book, from Zane’s mixed race to his two African-American companions after the flood.
This is definitely a story of Katrina, but it is even more a survival story of a boy and his dog. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from Blue Sky Press.