Book Review: Hurricane Song

This year, I started a book club with a fellow teacher. I teach at our local high school and my friend teaches at the middle school in our district. We had often remarked that it was weird that English teachers in our district had little interaction with one another. So, we started a book club! (There's an online version of this club on the English Companion Ning.)

This month's title was Hurricane Song by Paul Volponi. I am a huge fan of Volponi's work. I've only read three of his novels, but have found each of them to be engaging and realistic. Also, he does an amazing job of creating and developing characters that kids (boys especially) can sympathize with and understand. Hurricane Song is no exception to this rule.

The other Volponi titles I've read have taken place in inner cities and dealt with issues specific to urban teen life. This novel takes place in the hours and days immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. In this novel, Volponi slices through the stereotypes and horrific images portrayed in the news and portrays (with accuracy, I'm sure) what it was like to be evacuated from your home, your life, and penned up in an arena with little to no protection or sustenance.

It is interesting how one book can often relate to another, completely different book. I have been reading TheArt of Happiness in a Troubled World by the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler. Seemingly, these two books would be completely different. But, in the Happiness book, Cutler talks specifically about the media portrayal of Hurricane Katrina victims. Specifically, he talks about the racist lens the media sent to the general public about black "refugees" versus white "survivors" of this tragic storm. Volponi talks about the same issue in his novel.

I think that it is extremely important to expose teens to realistic literature like the novels that Volponi writes. He does not "dumb-down" his characters or his plots; he writes about reality in an observant, thought-provoking manner. With news of the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, there are certainly ways to connect these natural disasters to Hurricane Katrina. Most importantly, though, is the fact that Volponi writes interesting YA lit that rasie serious questions and thoughts about justice and equity in our country. I can't wait to read more from him!