“A Storm Called Katrina” Uses the Picture Book Format to Document a Boy and His Family’s Escape From the New Orleans Disaster

*Each week in the month of August I'll feature one children's book about Hurricane Katrina.*

The paintings are the real strength of the 2011 Picture book A Storm Called Katrina by Myron Uhlberg and illustrated by Colin Bootman.

A young boy named Louis who dreams of playing the horn like Louis Armstrong someday is scared about the incoming storm. His instincts are correct and the water rises forcing his family and his neighborhood to seek shelter. Floating on a segment of a door he and his mom see a black and white dog that they can't save. They seek refuge in the Superdome where they lose electricity, witness fights and have trouble keeping up with each other.

While the story addresses several media touch points about what the people stranded in the city experienced after the storm, in this book it feels more like each is being checked off of a list than being truly experienced by the characters. The story doesn't have the beating heart that is necessary to convey the depth of horror that people lived through after the storm. There is little emotion expressed by the characters and the level of fear and disgust are present only through the artwork.

The illustrator, Colin Bootman brings a breath of life to the book with his rich paintings that accent not only the scenery, clothing and setting but also the level of terror, distress and heartache of the citizens of the city. The water becomes another character in his paintings. No space is wasted by Bootman as backgrounds tell more of the story, be it through broken window, wandering pet or piled garbage.

It's a bit confusing what audience the publisher was attempting to hit with this title. The main character is ten years old, but most ten year olds aren't reading picture books, or at least not as their primary source of reading materials. The subject is too abstract for younger readers so something is definitely amiss in the format.

My Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers
Publication date: August 1, 2015
Pages: 40
ISBN: 9781561458875

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