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Another Kind of Hurricane Hardcover – July 14, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—Two stories of loss collide in this work of realistic fiction. Zavion and his father lose their house and everything they own in Hurricane Katrina. Zavion's already experienced the death of his mother, and he has created a personal code of conduct to help him survive. After he and his father take food from an abandoned convenience store in New Orleans, Zavion believes he has a debt to pay. That's going to be hard to do from Baton Rouge, where he and his father have relocated. Meanwhile, in Vermont, Henry is dealing with sudden death of his friend Wayne. Henry was with Wayne at the time, but the memories of the event are too painful for him to recall. The two boys passed a special marble back and forth for good luck for years. When Henry's mother donates some of his clothes to victims of Hurricane Katrina, she accidentally gives away the marble, which becomes the catalyst for merging the two plots, with Henry making his way to New Orleans in hopes of finding it and Zavion hatching his own plan to travel to the city to pay his debt. Smith excels at capturing the urgency of crisis, and strong, fast-paced openings of both plotlines pull readers right into the story. While the narrative is based on coincidence and chance, the voices and losses of Zavion and Henry are plausible and heartbreaking. Less believable are the many minor characters in the book, who are difficult to keep track of and who are sometimes inserted without context. However, the disorientation this creates is not entirely out of place here, since the novel mirrors the characters' feelings and experiences. The author is at her best when she conveys emotionally charged moments, with the prose reminiscent of a free verse poem; a particularly memorable moment involves the two main characters literally running into each other. It is refreshing to see the feelings of two middle grade boys explored so fearlessly. VERDICT This is a novel that will spark contemplation and discussion.—Juliet Morefield, Multnomah County Library, OR
“Elegant prose and emotional authenticity will make this title sing not only for those who have experienced tragedies, but for everyone who knows the magic that only true friendship can foster.”
—Kirkus Reviews starred review
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Zavion lives through the devastation and horror of Hurricane Katrina. As he and his father, Ben, walk through the streets of New Orleans searching for food and shelter, Zavion is faced with the same dilemma many survivors faced – was it theft to take what one needed to live or was it a matter of survival? “…Zavion …could tell the difference, but he couldn’t make a choice based on the difference …” A photojournalist helps the two leave New Orleans as they travel to Baton Rouge and a friend’s home where other survivors have gathered together and have formed a “family”.
At the same time, another boy in Vermont, Henry is coping with the accidental death of his best friend Wayne. Because he was winning a footrace against Wayne – something he had never done before - Henry feels responsible for the accident. When Wayne’s father Jake drives a truckload of relief supplies to New Orleans, Henry accompanies him. As the novel moves forward, events transpire that bring Zavion and Henry together. Their mutual need for emotional healing creates a symbiotic relationship that propels the balance of the novel’s action.
Alternating chapters focusing on Zavion or Henry, Tamara Ellis Smith creates a cohesive story that is highly emotional, but never maudlin. Interspersed among the chapters telling their stories are those of other survivors who come into the lives of the two and play significant roles in their story and their healing. The pace of “Another Kind of Hurricane” varies depending on the length of the chapter – some consist of only a few sentences or a single page – but it does not lag. The writing is clear and vivid in its descriptions of emotions and of surroundings. One of the most moving portions of the novel spoke to Henry’s consideration of fearing the place where each of the characters’ stories began. “…How many places could be unsafe? …What if the place came with you? What if no matter where you went it followed you? …what if it was inside him …”
The language and subjects addressed in “Another Kind of Hurricane” are appropriate for any age reader. Descriptions of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina are realistic. Emotions are depicted without becoming cloying; they are representative of the actions and reactions of real individuals experiencing real life situations. Tamara Ellis Smith’s debut novel is a success from any perspective.
Henry, a boy from near Mount Mansfield, Vermont, loses his best friend Wayne in a foot race accident around the same time. Both boys grieve their loss as their lives try to overcome other obstacles along the way. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on the citizens of New Orleans is at times rather graphic for a young reader, but it shows how desperate people can become when they have to survive.
Henry's mom is collecting clothes for the victims of Katrina in New Orleans. She accidentally gets rid of a pair of pants that contains Henry's magic marble. Zavion ends up with those pants and finds the marble, and the story unravels to the point where the boys meet and learn about friendship, struggles, survival, love of family.
The chapters are written in alternating perspective, always third person but interchanging between Zavion and Henry. The language flows freely. Details are kept at the middle school level so that young readers can understand the suffering from their perspective. There is an underlying sense of marality, faith and love in this story that should appeal to most any reader. The plot flows well. I have to give the author credit for this magical original storyline.
Both boys are connected by a marble that brings them together in an unlikely way. Zavion and Henry's worlds meet by chance. One helps the other heal. There is lot going on in New Orleans during one of the worst catastrophic disasters in recent history. By contrast, Vermont appears safe but it is a deception. Vermont itself would survive Hurricane Irene. While Irene and Katrina differ vastly, hurricanes are still deadly uncontrollable natural disasters. Irene doesn't appear in the novel but in the author's notes as a survivor. Her experience fueled this children's novel.
Zavion and Henry are only different in appearances and addresses but they are similar underneath. Their friendship is mature for their age. Both are guilt ridden and haunted by Wayne and Zavion's mother.
This novel has some issues with consistency and continuity but it overcomes the flaws by developing rich, believable multi dimensional characters for its intended audience. As a reader, you can feel the characters' range of emotions. As a reader, you don't want the story to end too and that is the highest compliment that I can give to this author. I am looking forward to her next novel.
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Zavion has lost his home to a natural disaster.Read more