Drowned City by Don Brown Book Review

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 4, 2015

When Hurricane Katrina arrived on August 29, 2005 with wind and surging water, no one knew what the true cost would be as the levees broke, flooding eighty percent of the city. Over eighteen hundred people lost their lives and showed both the best and worst of humanity.

This is a book that is in its own sort of genre. A non-fiction graphic "novel" with no clear characters that weaves together a story that is ruthless in its truths and heartbreaking in its accuracy. The presentation, appropriate for younger readers while not avoiding the inevitable death, is well done. There is a definite message that is being portrayed here, but it is one that points out the missteps as well as the heroism. As someone too familiar with this story, there was nothing I was surprised by, although it did help remind me of the timeline and order of events.

One of the downsides of a narrative like this though is that it is very much non-fiction and although tries to convey the human tragedy of this event, there is a certain amount of pathos that is missing. By not having a main character of sorts, one that we can follow and which readers can relate to, it reads like a lot of facts. This is not bad entirely, but it does make books like Upside Down In the Middle of Nowhere feel more effective, not because it is fiction but because it brings you face to face with the tragedy. It is one thing to read that people died in their attics when the floodwaters came, it is quite another to follow a family through that chaos. This book is an excellent book as a resource and a teaching tool, but it felt more textbook in nature with some really fabulous illustrations.