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Monday, April 02, 2018

Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana

Upside Down in the Middle of NowhereFor most kids, their birthday is the most important day of the year.  The same was true for 9, soon to be 10, year old Armani Curtis, and she wasn't going to let anyone or anything interfere with her party.  Little did she know, her birthday was going to fall on the same day as one of the most catastrophic natural disasters in our country's history: Hurricane Katrina.  Even though there were lots of warnings given, many people, including the Curtis family, chose to stay in their homes in New Orleans during the hurricane, not being able to imagine the devastation that was about to unfold.  Armani's family realized too late that they had made the wrong decision.

The hurricane itself was bad enough, with unrelenting rain and wind that lasted all night long, but the real nightmare started the next day when a massive wall of water rushed though and flooded everything in its path, causing the Curtis family to head to the attic, and eventually the roof. This is when the real tragedy begins.  Without giving too much of the story away, Armani was forced to grow up very quickly and take charge of her younger siblings.  The days that follow show the worst, but also the best in people and their ability to cope with adversity.

The author does an amazing job of capturing the voices and emotions of Armani and her family and friends, as well as describing the unfamiliar settings and chaos of the overcrowded Super Dome, buses, and shelters.  The muddy rain boots on the cover of the book have special significance, but you'll have to read the book to find out why they are so important.

I highly recommend this book.  It is real, and scary, and exciting, and brave, and heartbreaking, and uplifting all in one beautifully written story.  The author, Julie T. Lamana, had the job of helping children who had been separated from their parents during Hurricane Katrina, and used that experience to write this wonderful book.  On a personal note, I visited New Orleans about a year after Hurricane Katrina, and saw entire neighborhoods that had been severely damaged or completely destroyed.  Those sad images have stuck with me all these years, and make Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere even more powerful for me.  I hope you read and enjoy this book.

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