Brown, Don. “Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans”, HMH Books for Young Readers, 2015.
It is hard to believe that it has been ten years since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans. For those of us who are New Orleanians and were there for the storm, this is an emotional reminder. On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina’s tremendous winds and raging water destroyed a great American city. Eighty percent of the city flooded, in some places under twenty feet of water. Property damages across the Gulf Coast topped $100 billion. One thousand eight hundred and thirty-three people lost their lives. I still have a hard time making any sense of it. On one hand it was one of the most horrific events of my life but on the other hand, I am happy in Boston today because of it. The story of Katrina is one of selfless and heroic people who have had the courage to stay and rebuild yet it is also the story of incompetence, racism, and criminality. The story of Katrina is a story of tragedy and triumph and in the same breath.
I have many memories of Katrina and have had many nightmares about it. I have been working on a presentation about the storm and as I have been thinking about it and reviewing written material, I still find it hard to believe what happened in New Orleans. I have seen hundreds of pictures that have reopened some of the wounds I felt as I watched from my window as New Orleans went under water. It is still hard to conceive of anything like this could have happened yet we all know that it.
Don Brown brings us a wonderful book about the storm for young readers and in it he captures both sides of Katrina and does so through art and through narrative. His graphic novel is totally accurate and as I read I relived the story. Every cartoon panel is based on a direct quotation from a victim of or participant in the storm.
I learned that 5,000 children were separated from their parents and that some rescuers had to deal with living, poisonous snakes and that family pets were helpless and lost their lives to drowning and/or starvation. The dog I have today, Sophie, a Jack Russell terrier was found by rescuers and I adopted her in Arkansas. I still see the fear she exhibits when she gets close to water.
Brown’s book is simple and beautiful with a strong message that we not forget Katrina.
“Drowned City” is both a somber and totally engrossing read about the events that led up to Katrina, what happened during Katrina and what has happened since Katrina.