Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina

Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina

Rodman Philbrick
Historical Fiction
For ages 9 to 12
Scholastic, 2014   ISBN: 978-0545342384

Zane’s father died before he was born and though his mother tried very hard to find her dead husband’s family, she was not able to. Until now. Using a website that helps family members connect, she has found Beatrice ‘Miss Trissy’ Jackson, Zane’s great-grandmother,  in New Orleans. She has even talked to Miss Trissy and now she wants Zane to go and visit the old lady. Miss Trissy is his last surviving relative, and though she did not even know Zane existed until now, she is eager to meet him. Miss Trissy practically raised Zane’s father and so she might be able to help the thirteen year old to learn a little about the dad that he never knew.

Zane is not keen on leaving home, but when it is agreed that he can take his dog, Bandit, with him, he acquiesces to his mother’s wishes. It turns out that though she is very old and not in the best of health, Miss Trissy is a pretty wonderful person. Zane can’t help liking her forthright way of speaking and her sense of humor. He can’t help being impressed when she tells him about her life and how she lived through some pretty powerful hurricanes.

Everyone is talking about hurricane in New Orleans because one is heading towards the city. On Sunday August 28th Zane and Miss Trissy go to her church and Zane is amazed when Miss Trissy practically raises the roof of the church with her beautiful and powerful singing. Her legs might not work very well anymore, but her voice is still the voice of a young woman.  After the service the pastor tells his parishioners that they need to evacuate the city, and since Miss Trissy has no car, Zane, Trissy and Bandit are given seats in the church van.

For hours the van crawls along the streets, barely moving. Then some ferocious dogs bark at Bandit through the window of their vehicle and Bandit jobs out of the van window and runs for it. Though Zane knows full well that he should stay put, he simply cannot bear to abandon his dog and so he chases after him. Though Bandit is a small dog, he is very fast and Zane cannot catch him. He has no choice but to follow Bandit, who doggedly leads his master back to Miss Trissy’s house in the Ninth Ward.

Zane and Bandit are in Miss Trissy’s house when the hurricane hits, and though the house is small and not very strong, it withstands the powerful winds and lashing rain. After the storm is over, Zane and Bandit look outside, which is when they see that there is water everywhere and the level is rising. Just like Miss Trissy did with her husband in 1965 when Hurricane Betsy hit New Orleans, Zane and Bandit climb up into the attic of the house. The water does not quite reach them, but the heat in the enclosed attic is terrible and Zane begins to worry that it will kill his dog.

Then, but some miracle, Bandit senses that someone is outside and he barks. Soon a man and a girl in a canoe turn up and they rescue Zane and Bandit from the attic. The man is called Tru Manning and the girl, Malvina, is in his care while her mother is in hospital. Zane has already been through so much, and yet more trials lie ahead for him and his new friends.

In this powerful book the author combines fact and fiction to give readers a picture of what it was like, as seen through the eyes of a boy, to experience the horrific hurricane and its aftermath. We see the people of New Orleans at their best and at their worst. Some, like Tru and Malvina, want to help the people they encounter who are in distress. Others are so consumed by fear and selfishness that they become dangerous. All the events and situations described in the story really did happen to people who were in New Orleans during that terrible time.