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Remembering Hurricane Katrina: 15 Moving Books for Kids of All Ages

by Devon A. Corneal

remembering-hurricane-katrina

Disasters have a way of crystalizing time, ensuring we forever remember where we were when they occur. I remember being in elementary school art class when the Challenger exploded, law school tax class on the morning of 9/11, and a far safer New Jersey beach when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August 2005. Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast ten years ago this month, doing particularly brutal damage to the Big Easy, and while the passing years may have blunted the fear and uncertainty of that time, the memories for many remain crystal clear.

To honor and remember those who struggled through the storm, we’ve compiled books that help explain what happened, question the choices we make when our worlds fall apart, and celebrate the resiliency of the communities that lived through that extraordinary period in our national history.

  • Middle Grade

  • What Was Hurricane Katrina?

    by Robin Koontz, illustrated by John Hinderliter and Kevin McVeigh

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    The What Was...? series does a fantastic job of explaining complicated historical events for kids and What Was Hurricane Katrina? is no exception. Here, children can learn about the path of the storm, the damage it did, the rescue efforts, and how the citizens of New Orleans survived in its wake.

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  • Another Kind of Hurricane

    by Tamara Ellis Smith

    People’s lives connect in the most incredible of ways. This story tells how two boys find their way to each other and a way out of their respective grief when their lives intersect in New Orleans after Katrina. Zavion travels to New Orleans to repay a debt, while Henry makes his way to the shattered city to retrieve the marble he shared with the friend he recently lost. This is a story about friendship and loss and how we learn to heal.

  • Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere

    by Julie T. Lamana

    Turning ten should just be about birthday cake and presents and fun. But when Armani Curtis turns ten, she doesn’t just get another candle on her cake — she gets Hurricane Katrina. In an instant, Armani learns that getting older also means facing the darker side of life.

  • Saint Louis Armstrong Beach

    by Brenda Woods

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    Saint Louis Armstrong Beach has a very long name, a love of music, and beloved dog named Shadow. Saint won’t leave Shadow, even when that means staying in New Orleans as Katrina hits, and the two find themselves stranded in an elderly neighbor’s attic as the levees break. This story of loyalty and determination highlights the particular kind of bravery that arises when people need us.

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  • Tweens and Teens

  • Ninth Ward

    by Jewel Parker Rhodes

    Tween readers will be engrossed by this book’s blend of magical realism and the realities of a massive hurricane. When Lanesha’s caretaker Mama Ya-Ya predicts Hurricane Katrina, Lanesha and Mama Ya-Ya must prepare not only for the storm, but also for whatever may follow.

  • Hurricane Song

    by Paul Volponi

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    Miles only recently came to live with his father in New Orleans, and their relationship is rocky. Miles loves football while his dad loves jazz. When Hurricane Katrina hits the city, the two take refuge in the Superdome and the events that transpire there will change their lives forever.

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  • Zane and the Hurricane

    by Rodman Philbrick

    Boys and their dogs are popular topics for post-Katrina stories, but this one from Rodman Philbrick blends both the facts of the storm with the heroism and horror the city residents faced afterwards in a way that is engaging and accessible for tweens and teens.

  • Zeitoun

    by Dave Eggers

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    When successful housepainter and Syrian immigrant Abdulrahman Zeitoun remained in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, he expected a fierce storm. He stayed to protect his business, and as the waters rose and then receded, stayed to help his neighbors and friends recover from the disaster. Then one day, he disappeared. As his frantic family tried desperately to find him, Zeitoun found himself in the morass of the U.S. immigration system and the ad hoc law enforcement system at work in the battered city. A horrifying look at the chaos and uncertainty the often follows natural disasters, as well as a meditation and on prejudice, biases, and immigration issues, this book was written for adults, but is a must-read for high-school students as well.

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  • Five Days at Memorial

    by Sheri Fink

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    Also written for adults, Sheri Fink’s Five Days at Memorial is a powerful narrative that will captivate adolescent readers. Fink examines five days at Memorial Medical Center and the life and death decisions medical professionals made in the wake of the hurricane. A masterpiece of reporting, fair-mindedness, and excellent writing, this books challenges our basic beliefs about how we prepare for and react to crises.

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