This gripping addition to the growing body of fiction portraying Katrina’s profound effect on children and families pits an 11-year-old boy, a neighborhood dog and an elderly woman against the hurricane and subsequent devastating flood.
Narrator Saint is a gifted clarinetist with Juilliard dreams and a soft spot for Shadow, a black Lab mix he longs to fully claim. Families flee Tremé, but Saint’s mom, a dedicated hospital social worker, toils overtime as Katrina homes in. Pops arranges for Saint to evacuate with Uncle Hugo’s family, but Shadow—to Saint’s tearful dismay—runs off. Shadow’s pivotal in the plotting, as Saint slips back into town to find him. Fate tosses boy and dog in with stubborn neighbor Miz Moran, who’s evaded her own relatives in order to remain at home. Their attic confinement is a study in contrasts: The woman’s good planning yields battery-operated fans and freeze-dried ice cream, but unplanned-for issues include her worsening health and dog poop. Saint bests the flooded house to retrieve Miz Moran’s insulin; the lady’s casual admission that her three heart attacks “was mild ones” ratchets tension. Woods’ marvelous characterizations of Saint and Miz Moran more than stand up to the vivid backdrop of the flooded, chaotic city. Shadow’s credulity-straining heroics will please kids.A small gem that sparkles with hope, resilience and the Crescent City’s unique, jazz-infused spirit. (Historical fiction. 9-12)