Following the stellar The Great American Dust Bowl (2013), Brown tells the story of Hurricane Katrina and its impact on New Orleans, beginning with “a swirl of unremarkable wind” in “early August, 2005” and ending with the observation that “By 2012, only 80 percent of New Orleans’s residents had returned.”
Artwork with the high quality of early Disney animation—strongly drawn figures against electrically charged watercolor backgrounds—seamlessly co-tells a dramatic tale with text that ranges from simple, factual sentences to quotations from an extensive collection of books and media. The text and artwork clearly reveal two separate but inextricably connected horrors: devastation caused by a high-category hurricane and the human responsibility that lay behind the nightmarish scenarios. The book is fast-paced and hard to put down, sequential panels used to perfect advantage. A couple is shown in rising water in their home, scratching a hole through their roof to safety. Later, a crowd of 15,000 waits, without supplies, in a fetid convention center, for impossibly slow help to arrive. “Mayor Nagin is never seen there.” The final frame of that series depicts a woman on her knees, crying out, “Help us!” In addition to quoting and contextualizing such now-infamous sayings as, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job,” the book pays homage to the heroism of many, both professionals and volunteers.
An excellent chronicle of the tragedy for a broad audience; children, teens, and adults will all be moved. (source notes, bibliography) (Graphic nonfiction. 12 & up)