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

by Devon A. Corneal

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.

  • 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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