Strickland's (Bird) quietly powerful watercolors make this story of four fictional Ninth Ward children caught in Hurricane Katrina especially affecting. As firsttime author Watson moves among the perspectives of the children--Adrienne, Michael, Keesha, and Tommy--Strickland presents scenes of everyday life, the fearsomeness of the storm itself (a wordless spread shows blocks of tidy houses up to their roofs in water), the wreckage, and the rebuilding. Before Katrina, the children play hide-and-seek and ride their bicycles together. They know Katrina is coming, but expect little harm: "The sky don't look gray at all./ Seems like the sun is gonna shine forever," says Adrienne. Some relocate, some remain, though the children are reunited in a homecoming that brings muted joy; some of their neighbors are gone forever. But Katrina is not all there is of New Orleans, and when they gather in their much-changed neighborhood a year later, they agree: "We're from New Orleans,/ a place where hurricanes happen./ But that's only the bad side." In the same way, although Watson's story delivers some difficult emotional blows, it has plenty of sweetness, too. Ages 7-10. (June)
"We're from New Orleans, a place where hurricanes happen." Four friends, who live on the same street and play together every day, describe in alternating first-person voices (with gentle, appropriate dialect) how Hurricane Katrina flooded their lives. As Adrienne, Michael, Keesha and Tommy express their feelings and describe the reactions of their families, readers will sense the community spirit and the resilience of the people of New Orleans. Two of the children evacuate with their families while the others remain, providing a snapshot of representative experiences. From traffic snarls to lengthy lines waiting for buses to losing a teddy-bear collection, the combination of the free verse and Strickland's mixed-media illustrations realistically convey and personalize the effects of the disaster, all the while keeping the book age-appropriate. The characters are fictional, but the impact of the hurricane on people's lives is real as conveyed through these children's eyes. (Picture book. 7-10)
Renée Watson has worked as a teaching-artist for more than ten years, teaching creative writing and theater to elementary, middle and high school students. In 2006 Renée travelled to New Orleans where she facilitated poetry and theater workshops with children coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Renée lives in New York, New York. This is her first picture book. You can visit Renée online at www.reneewatson.net.
In 2009, Shadra Strickland received the American Library Association's John Steptoe Award for New Talent and the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award for Bird, her first picture book. Shadra visited New Orleans to research this book, and she was awed by the art scene, the rich culture, and the wonderful people of the city. Shadra lives in Brooklyn, New York.