Sunday, June 5, 2016

Teaching Disasters: a Review of DROWNED CITY: HURRICANE KATRINA AND NEW ORLEANS by Don Brown

This graphic novel is fantastic.  I enjoy graphic novels because the experience of "reading" pictures is sometimes much more powerful than reading words alone.  Such is the case with Brown's book.  He takes a story that students may not be interested in, but portrays it in a way that humanizes the after-math of Katrina, focusing on the plight of the people instead of the muddled politics.  It's very digestible for Grades 5 and up and is a great suggestion for students and teachers who are researching "natural disasters". A big bonus is that the font chosen (CC Tim Sale Brush) is consistent with the style of the art panels, giving unity to the graphic appeal of the story. Also included is a very thorough bibliography of sources and materials for further study.

Reviews and Awards:
Robert F. Sibert Honor Book, 2015
Kirkus’ Best of 2015 list
School Library Journal Best of 2015
Publishers Weekly’s Best of 2015 list
Horn Book Fanfare Book
Booklist Editor's Choice 

"An excellent chronicle of the tragedy for a broad audience; children, teens, and adults will all be moved."
Kirkus, starred review
"Lively, dynamic sketching gives the artwork a sense of urgency and immediacy. It is as important to tell the story of a nation's failures as it is to record its triumphs, and this is a crucial contribution."
Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Emotionally resonant, this outstanding title will appeal to graphic novel and nonfiction readers alike."
Booklist, starred review

"This astonishingly powerful look at one of America's worst disasters is a masterful blend of story and art."
School Library Journal, starred review

"If a book's power were measured like a storm's, this would be category five."
Horn Book Magazine, starred review

"This book could almost make its point on the powerful illustrations alone, but Brown’s precise language secures the historical details in an unforgettable way...‘Drowned City’ delivers a brave treatment of important and uncomfortable details.”
—The New York Times Book Review

Ideas for Teaching:
The NEA has a website with lesson plans available about Hurricane Katrina, complete with images maps and graphs and unit plans.  Hurricane Katrina

Teaching the Levees is a site concerned with supporting democratic dialogue and civic engagement. The site includes a free, downloadable PDF Curriculum Book. 

The Times-Picayune (New Orleans) houses a "Katrina" archive that is still maintained and updated on a regular basis.  These are primary documents, including the newspapers, Pulitzer-prize winning coverage.  Brown's book is reviewed here.

Vital Stats:
Brown, Don. Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans. Ills. Don Brown. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015. ISBN: 9780544157774

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