Reviews for Place Where Hurricanes Happen

Booklist Reviews 2010 May #2
Like Jewell Parker Rhodes' Ninth Ward (2010), Watson's debut picture book for older readers tells the story of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath for a young audience. In free verse, four young friends on a New Orleans street speak in alternating voices about the storm. First there is the fun they have together in the neighborhood, then the tension and terror as the hurricane comes nearer and hits the city, and then finally the devastation that follows. Tommy's family leaves town. Adrienne is leaving for Baton Rouge. Keesha waits five days at the Superdome for a bus and then, later, lives in a trailer outside her broken home. From an attic window, Michael and his sister watch their whole block disappear underwater. Both the words and pictures personalize the events. What was it like to be caught in the storm, to return to a neighborhood that you barely recognize, to find your friends again? In vibrant, mixed-media images, award-winning illustrator Strickland extends the drama, feeling, and individual stories. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Fall
Watson's lyrical prose describes life before and after Hurricane Katrina, as seen through the eyes of (fictional) children in a New Orleans neighborhood. The voices speak of family relationships, survival, and a slow return to normalcy--a paradigm for the resiliency of youth. Strickland's varied illustrations capture the many moods of the text and the assertion that "Katrina turned New Orleans inside out." Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2010 May #1
"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) Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2010 May #5

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)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2010 June

K-Gr 3--New Orleans friends Adrienne, Keesha, Michael, and Tommy take turns speaking in spare free verse. Their story begins with: "We're from New Orleans,/a place where hurricanes happen./But that's only the bad side." The happier side is illuminated by their close friends and family. Soon the neighborhood faces Hurricane Katrina, and each family copes with it in different ways. Tommy goes to Houston, Adrienne evacuates to Baton Rouge, Michael stays in his home, and Keesha waits at the Superdome for five days to be rescued. The text is lyrical and realistically portrays a child's point of view, deftly describing in a few words how the children are affected. Michael says: "Tommy's family packed up and left./And Adrienne is leaving too./I give her the picture I drew yesterday./Guess we're not playing together tomorrow." The evocative watercolor-and-ink illustrations in soft pastels and grays limn the devastation but also the good times of the neighborhood to great effect. Perhaps the most striking picture is the spread showing the flooded streets on which the children had played the day before. This is one of the best books for children to come out of the tragedy of Katrina. In a few short verses, it beautifully encapsulates the story of the tragedy in words and pictures that children can understand, without dwelling on the horror, but emphasizing the hope and healing power of friendship and community.--Judith Constantinides, formerly at East Baton Rouge Parish Main Library, LA

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