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.
When The Hurricane Came
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.
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