Katrina, Mississippi


A scholarly landmark in the history of a major storm.

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Wessman (You Can Fix the Fat from Childhood & Other Heart Disease Risks, Too, 2012) tells stories of people who helped save three Mississippi counties during Hurricane Katrina.

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina proved to be the nation’s most destructive natural disaster. It progressed from a Category 1 hurricane when it first hit Florida to a Category 3 in Louisiana, and it made its third landfall in Mississippi. There, it flattened the counties of Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson, creating what Wessman calls a “ransacked reality” for thousands of displaced citizens. The book offers the intertwining tales of Emergency Operations Center commander Benjamin “Joe” Spraggins, health officer Robert Travnicek, and deputy sheriff Rupert Lacy, among others, as they prepared for Katrina’s arrival and later strove to organize a successful cleanup. Although the story of these three Mississippi counties made less news than New Orleans’ did, it’s nevertheless extremely harrowing. Citizens in crowded shelters had no working sewage system, no electricity, and no reliable communication networks. Despite the storm’s quick retreat back to the Gulf of Mexico, it scattered cargo containers of food (including shrimp and chicken) everywhere, and the meat rotted alongside corpses and human waste. The author tells how Travnicek managed to avoid further catastrophes, including rioting and widespread disease, by making bold decisions that frequently sidestepped bureaucracy and put him at odds with his boss, Brian Amy, the state’s director of public health. Overall, Wessman marshals a colossal amount of data, combining it with interview material to present portraits of heroism and dedication in the face of horror. Readers learn, for example, that those who refused to evacuate were instructed to write their names, addresses, and phone numbers on their chests in permanent marker to make potential corpse identification easier. The book also explains storm science in clear language; for instance, when “the water’s on the eastern side of the [hurricane’s] eyewall,” it’s much worse for residents because “it’s getting pushed inland.” Ultimately, this chronicle is most noteworthy for bringing the dogged efforts of Spraggins and others to a wider audience. Students of the era and fans of nature writing shouldn’t miss this inspiring narrative.

A scholarly landmark in the history of a major storm.

Pub Date: July 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-936946-50-1

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Triton Press

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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