By Paul Volponi
Published 2008 by Viking Juvenile
I had never really even heard of this author until I discovered he would be in attendance at the ALA conference this year. I was pretty reluctant to read his books - I looked over them and didn't see anything that really captured my attention. But then I found this one - about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath - and it seemed like the obvious choice (since the conference will be in New Orleans this year). After finishing the book, I still can't say it was really my cup of tea but I do recognize that it was a well-written and powerful novel.
Volponi tells the story of Katrina through Miles, who has just relocated to New Orleans from Chicago. He is partly escaping from his mother and her new family and partly hoping to forge a better relationship with his dad, a jazz musician whose appearances in Miles' life have been scattered where his gigs lie. But Miles doesn't get much of a chance to establish a new life in New Orleans - it's the end of August 2005 and THE storm is about to hit.
Volponi does a great job bringing readers into the horror that was Katrina. Miles' story takes him to the Superdome. I don't know what kind of research Volponi did for this story but it's very visceral. If these are the things that actually happened, Katrina is more of a horror story than I even realized. The plot turns are just brutal, but they help Miles grow and figure out who he will be and how his relationship with his father will turn out. While I had a hard time relating to Miles' circumstances, I was moved by his journey. This book packs an emotional punch - it's little more than one hundred pages. It's clear to me from this foray into Volponi's novels that he knows how to write and how to get to the heart of the story without mincing words. His talent is apparent.