Reviews for Saint Louis Armstrong Beach

Booklist Reviews 2011 November #2
Saint Louis Armstrong Beach, an almost-12-year-old, has always "had the music in him." Named for his grandfather, Saint is saving his money for a Leblanc L1020 clarinet and a Juilliard education, while he tries to figure out the girl next door. In a strong, first-person voice that carries the rhythms of the New Orleans music he loves so much, Saint relates his experiences before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina, with a touchingly authentic child's view. As the storm approaches, Saint worries about the neighborhood dog he loves and makes an elaborate plan to get Shadow to safety. When the plan goes awry, Saint finds himself riding out the storm with his neighbor, old Miz Moran, who has refused to leave her home. As the water rises, so does the suspense, and Woods packs her novel with stark details that make both the devastation and the danger clear. Lucky conveniences ensure Saint and Miz Moran's rescue, but what lies at the heart of this story rings true: Saint's love for his neighborhood and his hard-earned hope for the future. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Spring
This spare, moving novel voiced by an almost-twelve-year-old African American narrator covers five days before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina. Packing, boarding up windows, checking on neighbors, making and unmaking plans as the situation changes--all are perfectly captured by Woods. The authentic New Orleans setting works as a powerful character, adding an extra dimension to the compelling story. Copyright 2012 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2011 #6
"Saint Louis Armstrong Beach is me," says the narrator, an almost-twelve-year-old African American boy living in New Orleans in 2005. This spare, moving novel covers five days before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina. In a carefully crafted backstory, Woods deftly shows (never tells) readers about Saint's "before": his life in the tight-knit, historic community of Tremé; infatuation with a thirteen-year-old neighbor; success as a street musician; desire for an L1020 Step-Up Pro clarinet; and unfailing love for Shadow, a stray dog. As Katrina approaches, the Beach family makes contingency plans for evacuation. The packing, boarding up windows, checking on neighbors, and making and unmaking of plans as the situation changes (all done in heat that makes one feel like "being cooked inside an oven") capture perfectly the hurry-up-and-wait twin aggravations of disaster preparedness. Most poignant are Saint's mother's community responsibilities (through her hospital job) that conflict with her desire to stay with her family. In a believable moment of preteen impulse, Saint decides to ride out the hurricane with his elderly neighbor, Miz Moran, and Shadow. This tense "during" vividly portrays the force of the storm, and the authentic New Orleans setting works as a powerful character, adding an extra dimension to this compelling Katrina story. betty carter Copyright 2011 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 August #2

This gripping addition to the growing body of fiction portraying Katrina's profound effect on children and families pits an 11-year-old boy, a neighborhood dog and an elderly woman against the hurricane and subsequent devastating flood.

Narrator Saint is a gifted clarinetist with Juilliard dreams and a soft spot for Shadow, a black Lab mix he longs to fully claim. Families flee Tremé, but Saint's mom, a dedicated hospital social worker, toils overtime as Katrina homes in. Pops arranges for Saint to evacuate with Uncle Hugo's family, but Shadow—to Saint's tearful dismay—runs off. Shadow's pivotal in the plotting, as Saint slips back into town to find him. Fate tosses boy and dog in with stubborn neighbor Miz Moran, who's evaded her own relatives in order to remain at home. Their attic confinement is a study in contrasts: The woman's good planning yields battery-operated fans and freeze-dried ice cream, but unplanned-for issues include her worsening health and dog poop. Saint bests the flooded house to retrieve Miz Moran's insulin; the lady's casual admission that her three heart attacks "was mild ones" ratchets tension. Woods' marvelous characterizations of Saint and Miz Moran more than stand up to the vivid backdrop of the flooded, chaotic city. Shadow's credulity-straining heroics will please kids.

 A small gem that sparkles with hope, resilience and the Crescent City's unique, jazz-infused spirit. (Historical fiction. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 August #4

Set in New Orleans during the week leading up to the arrival of Hurricane Katrina, Woods's novel introduces Saint Louis Armstrong Beach, an 11-year-old resident of the city's Tremé neighborhood. Named after both his grandfather and the jazz musician, Saint (an accomplished clarinet player, not a trumpeter) has a "mostly good" life before the storm, with close ties to his parents and his tight-knit community, including a neighborhood dog, Shadow. When evacuation of the city becomes mandatory, Saint is supposed to leave town with his extended family, but he returns to his neighborhood to search for Shadow and winds up caring for his diabetic elderly neighbor, Miz Moran, as the levees break and the streets flood. While Woods (A Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame) concludes on a realistically uncertain note, the contrivances that allow for the book's perhaps too-happy ending (including a dream sequence and some unlikely efforts on Shadow's part) shield readers from the more devastating realities of the disaster. Still, Saint is an easy protagonist to love, and his reunion with his parents remains gratifying. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 October

Gr 4-7--Saint Louis Armstrong Beach is an 11-year-old, clarinet-playing resident of Tremé, a neighborhood near the French Quarter in New Orleans. As Saint saves up his street-performing tips for a new clarinet and tries to make sense of his broken relationship with his former best friend, a catastrophic storm gathers. Saint is forced to evacuate the city, but decides to turn back in search of the neighborhood stray dog. He ends up heading right into the path of Hurricane Katrina. With his engaging voice, readers will quickly take a shine to Saint. The dialogue is strong, smooth, and natural. The food, music, and tempo of New Orleans all come to life, told with an efficiency that keeps interest high. The conclusion is a bit abrupt, however, leaving some loose ends. Woods skillfully provides a sense of the growing tension as the storm approaches. The real-life events of Hurricane Katrina--the evacuation, the levees failing, the Superdome-- are integrated smoothly into the story. While the tragedy of the event is not glossed over, the overall theme is one of hope.--Travis Jonker, Dorr Elementary School, MI

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