Every natural disaster leaves behind stories of misery, of courage, of cowardice, and of perseverance, and Hurricane Katrina is no exception. Eleven years ago, the huge hurricane swept the Gulf Coast, leaving 2,000 people dead and thousands homeless, particularly in flooded New Orleans. It was a time of great trial, but the adversity led to many great and many small acts of heroism.
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans
Drowned City by Don Brown is a graphic novel which details the emergence of a small storm near Africa that soon whirls into a tropical storm, then a Category 5 hurricane. When Katrina hits low-lying New Orleans, the city is only partly evacuated and is unprepared for the water that breaks the levees and floods the city. During the flooding, people are stranded on rooftops and crowded in the Superdome. As the water recedes, aid to the city is slow and disorganized, and the crowded conditions in the New Orleans Convention Center and the Superdome become squalid.
In Drowned City, author and illustrator Don Brown stitches together facts and personal accounts of what New Orleans was like after Katrina hit. Brown researched his book well, and his book provides a concise narrative about Hurricane Katrina’s effects on New Orleans. However, the subject matter of the story is inherently dismal, and Drowned City focuses more on the suffering citizens and incompetent relief organizations than it does on the heroes who helped those in need or the lessons people learned. Don Brown did an excellent job of writing and illustrating Drowned City, but the content and focus make it far from uplifting. Perhaps the situation was as dismal as Brown depicts it, but I wonder if, in the search for historical accuracy and realism, Don Brown missed many of the stories of hope, of kindness, and of lessons learned.
Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival
An example of a story that illustrates hope and kindness is the picture book Two Bobbies. It is an account of two animals Katrina left stranded, animals who were lost like so many pets during the evacuation of New Orleans. Two Bobbies by Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery and illustrated by Jean Cassels narrates the true story of how the dog and cat friends Bobbi and Bob Cat survived Katrina by sticking together and how they found a new home. Well-written and -illustrated, Two Bobbies sweetly captures the pair’s story and friendship.