It’s hard for me to warm to books about natural disasters I’ve lived through if the stories don’t feel authentic. I wasn’t in Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina, but like millions of others, I watched the disaster unfold on television – the incompetence of officials, the tragic stories about families and businesses and pets lost, the mystifying way it dragged on for days before efficient help could be had.
I’ve read a few books written for kids or teens that took place during or after Hurricane Katrina, and up until now, there’s really only one that I’ve liked. Like Another Kind of Hurricane, Drowned City (by Don Brown) captures that moment and the awfulness of it all, bringing back feelings that even someone like me experienced, watching from far away and seeing the destruction and tragedy of it all unfold.
“A swirl of unremarkable wind leaves Africa and breezes toward the Americas.” And from there, the winds transform and the story plays out just as I remember it. We see the crisis emerge and grow, much in the way I watched it so many years ago. Drowned City is a graphic novel, so it’s able to show the emptiness of the abandoned parts of the city and the emotions of the people in a way that most novels can’t do as quickly. Does it mean something that so few people have their eyes open? I wonder.