Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere

Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere

Julia T. Lamana
For ages 10 to 12
Chronicle, 2014   ISBN: 978-1452124568

It is the Friday before Armani Curtis’ birthday weekend and she very excited because she will be ten on Sunday. At last she will have a double digit birthday and she won’t be a little child anymore. They are going to have a party, a cake, and Armani’s friends and relatives will all come to celebrate with her.

When people start talking about a storm that is heading their way, Armani tries not to pay attention. She refuses to believe that the storm will affect New Orleans. It will got to Florida instead, or somewhere else. Then there is talk about evacuation and Armani starts to worry. How will she be able to have a party if her family has to evacuate, if they have to leave their home in the ninth ward?

In spite of her efforts to deny the possible seriousness of the storm, the hurricane (for that is what it is) heads for Louisiana and people start to leave town. Armani’s Daddy decides that they will stay. So often these evacuations are a waste of time and money.

On Armani’s birthday Daddy decides that it would be irresponsible to let Armani’s friends come over because of the hurricane, but he is willing to let Armani have a smaller family party. Armani’s uncle, her cousin, her grandmother, Mama, her sisters and brother gather in the yard. There is a lot of food to eat, they play on a slip and slide, and then Armani gets her birthday present. For years Armani has wanted a puppy and now she has one of her own, a sweet little dog whom she names Cricket.

The family don’t get to enjoy the party for long though. The wind gets so strong that they have to go indoors. They hear that the hurricane, Katrina, is now a category five storm, a storm strong enough to “wipe New Orleans off the map,” and the mayor has put a mandatory evacuation in place for the entire city. Daddy learns that is now too late to leave. The roads are clogged and nothing is moving on the roads that lead out of the city. Some of the people living in the Lower Nines are going to take refuge in the Super Dome, the covered stadium.

Soon after they hear this news they lose power but this does not stop Mama from giving her daughter the rest of her birthday celebration. Armani’s mother made Armani a beautiful cake with blue icing and they all sing the happy birthday song for her, their faces lit up by the birthday candles. Armani feels the warmth of her family’s love, a warmth that is dashed away when the storm hits soon after the candles are blown out.

The wind and rain is bad, and the house starts to come apart as the storm rages around it. A tree falls through a window and Daddy is a cut, but thankfully the injury is not a serious one. Then the situation gets a lot worse; the levees give way and a wall of water, storm surge, roars towards Armani’s home. The family takes refuge in the attic and then on the roof, and in the chaos terrible things start to happen that tear Armani’s life apart.

Written from Armani’s point of view, this incredible book will both warm and break reader’s hearts. Touches of humor light up the narrative, as do touching sections that explore Armani’s strong and loving relationship with her family members. Readers will experience a natural disaster in a way that will have a deep impact on them. Armani gives the victims of such events a voice and heart.