Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans

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Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Don Brown


Drowned City
is a tough but very important read. The graphic novel element makes this story accessible to reluctant readers and Brown does a great job of recounting and documenting this part of history. It’s easy to pick up the book and learn the history, facts, heroism and the incompetency. The writing of Drowned City reads like an extended newspaper article; fact after fact with the addition of speech bubbles. The moments of dialogue help connect readers to the tragic events and the people who suffered through them.

As I read the book, I’d stare at the words and then the illustrations and I’d shake my head, memories of television news reports coming back to me. Brown’s illustrations are powerful. He uses a palette of of browns, blues, grays and purples to depict the stagnant water, stormy skies, and hopeless expressions of the people of New Orleans.

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Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Don Brown

One criticism I have of this book is that in the summary, Brown writes “The suffering hit the African American community hardest; a weather disaster became a race disaster” but he never addresses this in the book. Brown skin is visually noticeable in the illustrations but he doesn’t discuss the issue of race in the lack of response to the hurricane victims, or even acknowledge that most of the victims were African American. This is something I’d encourage parents and teachers to discuss.

Published in 2015, just in time for the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Drowned City is a worthy and moving read that will provoke much discussion in your home or classroom. This book can be even more powerful when used in conjunction with real life accounts and stories from the victims themselves. A while back I compiled a group of excellent books about Hurricane Katrina for a display at my bookstore. Check out my post here for those books and be sure to pick up a copy of this graphic novel.

 

Recommended for: Ages 12 and up
Great for: History, Modern History, Hope, Community, Determination, Discrimination, Discussion, Economic Inequality, Incompetency, Hurricane Katrina, Inner Strength, Lack of Leadership, Leadership, Social Issues, Struggle, We Need Diverse Books, Non-Fiction, African American
Book Info: Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans by Don Brown, 2015 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN: 9780544157774

Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans

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Image Credit: Chronicle Books LLC, Phil Bildner/John Parra

 

A good teacher encourages you to learn more on your own. One of the things I like most about Marvelous Cornelius is that Bildner shares Cornelius’ story in the form of a folk tale, then in the author’s note, encourages readers to learn more about him. This is important.

Marvelous Cornelius tells the story of Cornelius Washington from New Orleans who was a pillar of his community. Was he a politician? A Policeman? A Teacher? No. He was a jaunty, show-stopping garbage man in the French Quarter who took pride in his job. After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Cornelius found the spirit within himself to continue doing his job well; he worked to make his home beautiful again and with help pouring in from near and far, he swept the streets. Bildner incorporates sound and rhythm elements into the story, which gives it energy and makes it fun to read aloud.

I’ve never been to New Orleans but like many Americans, I grew up learning a bit about the music, the food, the history, and the energy of the place. Especially after the hurricane, our eyes and hearts were once again turned down there. Bildner writes a story that honors a man who was very much a part of his city and the illustrator, John Parra, transports us to NOLA with his illustrations. He uses lots of earthy, rich tones and the paint is scratchy on the canvas. People with beautiful hues of skin color fill the streets in celebration and Cornelius stands tall, lanky and strong with his dark brown skin, orange gloves and gray earring. I really like Parra’s style; Green is a Chile Pepper is another one to check out if you like his style as well.

Marvelous Cornelius is a very special biography picture book so be sure to check it out. 🙂

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Biography, We Need Diverse Books, Cultural Diversity, New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina, Community, Local Hero, African-American, Non-Fiction
Book Info: Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bildner/Illustrated by John Parra, 2015 Chronicle Books LLC, ISBN: 9781452125787

Remembering Through Books

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A small but mighty collection of books

Back in August, we took time to reflect on ten years since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. So many lives were lost and many communities are still coping with the aftermath of the hurricane. Hearing about the tenth anniversary made me think about how I can connect the people of my community to this important anniversary, as a bookseller. I gathered these books and made a simple display. In this way, a casual bookstore-browser, especially children, can be exposed and introduced to important social events. My table also got a seal of approval by author Renee Watson (A Place Where Hurricanes Happen, Harlem’s Little Blackbird, This Side of Home)!! 🙂 The titles I used are listed below and click here for information about Hurricane Katrina.

Scholastic Discover More Reader Level 2: Hurricane Katrina (9780545829540)

Scholastic Discover More: Hurricane Katrina (9780545829564)

Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews (9781419714658)

Giada de Laurentiis’s Recipe for Adventure: New Orleans (9780448462592)

Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina by Rodman Philbrick (9780545342391)

Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith (9780553511932)

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes (9780316043083)

A Place Where Hurricanes Happen by Renee Watson (9780385376686)

What Was Hurricane Katrina? by Robin Koontz (9780448486628)

I Survived Hurricane Katrina by Lauren Tarshis (9780545206969)

Finding Someplace by Denise Lewis Patrick (9780805047165)

National Geographic Kids, Extreme Weather: Surviving Tornadoes, Sandstorms, Hailstorms, Blizzards, Hurricanes and More (9781426318115)