Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Zane and the Hurricane

Zane and the Hurricane

Spring 2014 Fiction
Ages: 10 - 14 yrs.
Author: Rodman Philbrick
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-0545342384
Hardcover Price: $16.99

Zane hadn't really wanted to visit his great-grandmother, Miss Trissy, in New Orleans, especially since he'd almost had to leave his beloved dog Bandit at home in New Hampshire. But it had taken his mother a long time to locate any of his father's family after he died, and she seemed to think it was pretty important that he get to know some of his dad's relatives. So Zane gave in. It was just his terrible luck that a hurricane rolled in right at the end of his visit. It was even worse luck that as the church van carrying Zane, Bandit, and Miss Trissy out of the city sat in endless traffic on the highway, a big dog barked from another car's window, scaring Bandit right out of the window and onto the packed highway. What could Zane do but follow? Once back in Miss Trissy's endangered house in Ward Nine, boy and dog are left to navigate the storm, and its terrible aftermaths of environmental devastation and human conflict, together with newfound friends and neighbors.

Rodman Philbrick's new novel offers a good way for readers to begin learning about the social history surrounding Hurricane Katrina, through the medium of a boy-and-his-dog story that is compelling on its own account. Zane is an engagingly chatty pre-teen narrator, by turns selfish, sweet, and resilient. As a biracial character, raised in a white household, Zane views the New Orleanian African-American community as an outsider, but is nevertheless granted a certain level of trust and insider status by the black characters in the novel. As such, he serves as a kind of innocent, naïve ambassador for readers who may be outsiders due to geography, culture, or both; as an example, Zane is more horrified and surprised by the racist incidents at Crescent City and Danziger bridges than his companions are. This engaging read, with well-developed secondary characters and a convincing narrative voice, will draw young readers into this story of friendship, animal loyalty, and survival.

Naomi Lesley   ©2014 Parents' Choice
Naomi Lesley taught middle and high school English for six years. She is currently in a doctoral program at the George Washington University, focusing on American young adult literature.

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