Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Drowned City

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans
Don Brown
Houghton Mifflin, 2015  96 pgs
Grades 5-Up
Graphic Non-Fiction

Utilizing the same format as his critically acclaimed graphic account of the Great Depression titled The Great American Dust Bowl (see July 23, 2015's blog post) Brown focuses his amazing talents on Hurricane Katrina and its devastation on New Orleans in 2005. Brown is able to offer the facts from start to aftermath of the terrible storm, told through both text and comic illustrations. First person accounts, news articles, and extensive research work collectively to provide a well balanced and accurate picture of Katrina and the stories of those who survived and those who perished. Both heroes and villains emerge as Brown shows the exhausted efforts of the rescue workers, as well as those reluctant to help and people taking advantage of the situation for their own means. fourteen-hundred people lost their lives in the hurricane, as well as countless animals, marking it as one of the worst natural disasters in American history. The effects of the storm on both the city of New Orleans and how as a country we now handle natural disasters since the tragedy are explored. Commemorating the tenth anniversary of this monumental event, Brown is donating a part of the proceeds to New Orleans Habitat for Humanity. The book ends on a hopeful note; New Orleans is recovering, but there is still work to be done.The volume is rounded out with extensive source notes and a bibliography.

Can the graphic format serve to convey factual, non-fiction information? In the capable hands of Don Brown, you bet it can! In less than one-hundred pages and mostly through illustration Brown manages to tell the whole story and invites the reader to feel as if they are part of the crisis. Granted, I'm not a news hound, but I lived through this event while it was current and watched the coverage on the news. I can't think of much that Brown left out. The information is all there and conveyed in a way that young people will understand, often including first-person accounts. The comic illustrations and washed-out pallet, consisting mostly of earth tones, reflect the mood perfectly and hold up their own end of the narration in a way that text cannot. Because of the honest portrayal of the many deaths, including the many pets that perished, and the bad behavior displayed by some of the players in this drama, I would not recommend this book for children younger than ten, even though at first glance it seems appropriate for a young audience. Older elementary through adult will appreciate this book and walk away having learned something in the bargain. I can't wait to see where in history Brown turns next.

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