When The Hur­ri­cane Came

Nechama Liss-Levin­son
  • Review
By – April 20, 2012

Nine-year-old Ger­tie has a very long list of rea­sons for feel­ing quite lucky to be grow­ing up in New Orleans and she wouldn’t live any­where else! She attends a won­der­ful school, the Jew­ish Acad­e­my, where she excels in Hebrew and Eng­lish, the weath­er is almost always warm enough to go out­side for recess, and she attends the esteemed Con­gre­ga­tion Beth Israel! When Hur­ri­cane Kat­ri­na hits Louisiana on August 29, 2005, Gertie’s mom hur­ried­ly packs up her chil­dren and takes them to their Aunt Charlene’s in Mem­phis to wait out the storm. As the fam­i­ly hud­dles togeth­er and watch­es the dev­as­tat­ing news on tele­vi­sion, a few days turn into weeks. Gertie’s house in New Orleans has been com­plete­ly destroyed and her mom makes pro­vi­sions for her chil­dren to start the school year in Ten­nessee. Ger­tie has a hard time adjust­ing to all the changes in her life and espe­cial­ly miss­es her father, a doc­tor, who stays back in New Or­leans to assist the needy, but looks for­ward to cel­e­brat­ing Rosh Hashana with all their fam­i­ly tra­di­tions. How­ev­er, even those are dif­fer­ent now at a new syn­a­gogue and she doesn’t appre­ci­ate her aunt’s hol­i­day menu. Ger­tie re­solves to sur­prise the fam­i­ly by prepar­ing the tra­di­tion­al luck­shen noo­dle pud­ding for the hol­i­day. Only her five-year-old broth­er judges it hon­est­ly declar­ing, That’s real­ly gross.” Slow­ly Ger­tie finds friends at her new school and makes her mark at the Chanukah tal­ent show with a singing solo where she sings like a Mac­cabee.” When the fam­i­ly moves back to New Orleans and has to live in a trail­er, Ger­tie real­izes that she has been more for­tu­nate than most and vows to make a dif­fer­ence aid­ing the fam­i­lies in her vicin­i­ty. With the help of her new friends in Ten­nessee, she starts a nation­al book dri­ve to replace the dam­aged books at the pub­lic library and orga­nizes a com­mu­ni­ty Seder that revives the spir­it of the neighbor­hood res­i­dents. The author, a psy­chol­o­gist who went down to New Orleans as a vol­un­teer to help rebuild the city, sen­si­tive­ly por­trays a young girl with her com­pas­sion for oth­ers, her ded­i­ca­tion to her Jew­ish iden­ti­ty, and her strong desire for tikkum olam” (heal­ing and restor­ing the world). A glos­sary of Jew­ish terms and a list of projects young read­ers can get involved in are includ­ed at the back of the book and make this a good choice for read­ers ages 8 – 12.

Debra Gold has been a children’s librar­i­an for over 20 years in the Cuya­hoga Coun­ty Pub­lic Library Sys­tem. An active mem­ber of the ALA, she has served on many com­mit­tees includ­ing the Calde­cott, New­bery and Batchelder committees.

Discussion Questions