Rating: 5 (starred review)
Genre: realistic fiction
What did you like about the book? This book tells the story of two 10-year-old boys in alternating chapters. Zavion and his father live in Louisiana. They survive Hurricane Katrina but lose their home and everything in it and have to stay with friends in Baton Rouge. Henry lives in Vermont and just lost his best friend Wayne in an accident on a nearby mountain. The boys’ lives intersect when Henry accompanies Wayne’s father on a volunteer mission to help hurricane survivors. Henry is on a quest to find a marble that he and Wayne once shared which was left in the pocket of a pair of jeans donated to hurricane victims. Both boys are deeply wounded by both present and past losses: Zavion is still grieving for his mother who died several years earlier and Henry for his absent father. Both boys have distinct voices, and anyone who wonders what it was like to be a child in New Orleans when the levees broke, or a child who witnesses his friend’s death, need look no further than this novel. An author’s note adds an interesting dimension. Well worth reading.
Anything you didn’t like about it? Given the characters’ young age, there is a lot of sadness and loss to process. Older readers might be initially deterred by the fact that the protagonists are only 10 years old. Encourage them to stick with it. The novel also relies a lot on coincidences, but the emotions felt so authentic that I was willing to suspend my disbelief.
To whom would you recommend this book? Read-Alikes? This will be a good novel to recommend to boys, but girls may enjoy it too. Although sensitive readers may be disturbed by some of the images, it feels like an excellent choice for a classroom or family read aloud or book discussion group. Readers looking for other novels depicting boys struggling with the death of a friend or family member should try The Way Home Looks Now by Wendy Wan Long Shang and Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff.
Who should buy this book? Public libraries and middle schools, particularly since its publication coincides with the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
Where would you shelve it ? Middle grade fiction or young adult fiction depending on your library’s collection.
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes.
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Renée Wheeler, Leominster Public Library, Leominster, MA
Date of review: August 28, 2015