Review: Zane and the Hurricane by Rodman Philbrick

20140112-094215.jpgThe cover got me. As soon as I saw this sad yet beautiful illustration I needed to know more. Described as a “gripping yet poignant novel about a boy and his dog trapped in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina”, I was immediately intrigued.

Twelve-year-old Zane has been sent to visit his newly discovered great-grandmother in New Orleans. Not a fan of the city he calls “Smellyville”, he nevertheless begins to enjoy the time spent getting to know his long-lost relative. As luck would have it, however, his visit coincides with one of the worst natural disasters in history. After the levees fail, he and his grandmother attempt to leave the city. Zane gets separated from his grandmother and is rescued by a kindly musician and his young charge. Along the way, they encounter much of the horror and lawlessness that pervaded the city during this time. As a young man of mixed race, Zane’s eyes are opened to many societal and racial issues he’s never seen in his home state of New Hampshire.

I enjoyed this book for many reasons. Realistic fiction is always a favorite of mine if it’s packed full of historical facts, and this books fits that description. Although Zane is a fictional character, much of his experiences are based on factual information gathered by the author and others. The book explores the issues of economic and racial disparities without being preachy. There’s no question that people are often treated differently because they’re poor or black. Mr. Philbrick did an excellent job of researching facts and conditions of that horrible time in America’s recent history. As a Newbery Honor author, he knows how to speak to his audience of young readers. Although this book’s intended audience is listed as 10 to 14 years, don’t let that dissuade you from reading it.

~Thalia

Buy it Now: Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina