Thursday, February 6, 2014

Zane and the Hurricane by Rodman Philbrick

181 p. Blue Sky Press/ Scholastic, February 25, 2014. 9780545633475. (Arc obtained at Scholastic Preview)

Twelve-year-old Zane Dupree is quite happy living with his mom in New Hampshire and doesn't even miss his dad, thank you very much. He died in an accident before Zane was born. "You can't miss somebody you never knew, can you?" So he's a bit chagrined at having to travel to Smellyville, aka New Orleans at the end of August, 2005 to meet his paternal great-grandmother. His mom, who knew little to nothing about his dad's childhood, has been searching for his family all these years and finally found Trissy, who raised Zane's dad. 

Zane won't go without Bandit, his beloved mutt. His mom relents and the two take off for New Orleans. Zane warms to Trissy but when he learns he had an uncle who, "got hissef killed," and nothing when he asks why his dad ran away from home, Zane also learns that when Trissy doesn't want to talk about something, she usually changes the subject. With ice cream.

When Hurricane Katrina bears down on the Gulf and the flight Zane's mom arranged for him and Trissy is canceled, Trissy's pastor arranges for them to be evacuated in the church van. He's not happy about including Bandit though. Unfortunately, Bandit bolts and Zane takes off after him. The dog leads Zane back to Trissy's house where the two hunker down for the duration.

And that's when the tension ratchets up. The descriptions of the storm are so vivid and terrifying.

     "A gust slams into the side of the house, rattling the    
     windows. Bandy hunkers down on his tummy, whimpering. 
     obviously scared of hurricanes. Smart dog.

        The storm gets stronger and stronger, until the house 
     whimpers, too." (36)

I found myself gripping the book when Zane describes the flooding that occurred when the levees broke following the storm. That wasn't the last time, nor was I immune to reading ahead when the suspense got too great. Zane is a terrific character who, while articulate, sounds like a kid. Malvina and Tru are compelling characters as well. I was so caught up caring for these three and Bandit that I didn't stop to question any coincidences. 

The author does a lot in 180 pages. Short chapters and the nearly constant tension and danger will keep even the most reluctant of readers engaged and flipping pages. I love the cover and the water-stained pages were a nice design touch. This is one I can't wait to put on the shelves. I will be booktalking this like crazy.

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