Louisiana. Zavion. Vermont. Henry. Wayne. The marble. A bird lady. A family. Mama. A hurricane. A peanut butter-chocolate-cinnamon cake. Grandmother Mountain.
Until it’s staring us and them in the face, we don’t often talk to children about grief — what it is, what it feels like, how it overcomes you, the way you blame yourself for things you couldn’t have changed anyway. If only I would have done this… If I had just been focused on that… Death and grief are tough and ugly, and the characters in Another Kind of Hurricane experience some of the worst of it.
Following the loss of his mom, Zavion becomes the problem-solver for his dad, making sure things are done right and taken care of. Hurricane Katrina hits them hard – the house fills with water, strange and disturbing things float by, finding food and water is a challenge, and even the people who are supposed to be there to help are overwhelmed and unable to provide what’s needed. They finally make it Baton Rouge, but after losing everything, it’s hard to imagine what will be next. Coping day-to-day is so hard.
Henry, far away in Vermont, has lost his best friend. Wayne and Henry took off on an adventure together, but only Henry came back alive, and he is crushed, flattened by the weight of his grief. He stews about what he could have done differently, but it always comes back to him being alive and Wayne lying in the coffin.
And then there’s the marble – a token Wayne and Henry shared – which travels all the way to Baton Rouge and then New Orleans, linking the boys, their families and their two stories. It’s only through coming together that they can begin to heal.
While not exactly an easy read, Another Kind of Hurricane is a beautiful book, with characters who travel down similar paths, bumping into each other and eventually walking forward together. I’m not often a fan of books that deal with death and dying for children and teens, because so many of them romanticize something about the whole process. When you’re really the one left behind, it’s not softly lit or pretty, but with some time and the right support, you make it through, just as we know Zavion and Henry will someday.
Another Kind of Hurricane – Tamara Ellis Smith