Elizabeth Varadan | The Children’s Book Review | February 17, 2016
Written by Juliet T. Lamana
Age Range: 9 – 12 years
Paperback: 328 pages
Publisher: Chronicle Books; Reprint edition (July 21, 2015)
What to Expect: Gripping scenes that plunge a reader into the reality of a hurricane; strong, believable characters; cross-cultural friendships that rise above earlier prejudices.
Friday afternoon, August 26, 2005, seems innocently like any other Friday to Armani Curtis, except for excitement over her tenth birthday and the party her family is planning. But storm warnings keep her grandmother and father riveted to the news. As a precaution, they change plans to a family party for Armani’s siblings, parents, her grandmother, Memaw, her uncle, and his lady friend. The celebration is convivial, but uneasy, as friends warn them to leave. And then it’s too late. Hurricane Katrina strikes. Armani and her family are swept into a maelstrom of floods, wreckage, loss of lives, separations, illness due to water pollution, and the unrelenting chaos of a city turned inside out.
Nearly everyone has read about Hurricane Katrina, but Lamana’s vivid writing makes a reader live through it and experience it through a ten-year-old’s eyes instead of a newscaster’s reportage. Mistakes are made by everyone in the family. True to life, surviving family members each internalize blame for something no one could have foreseen. The author experienced firsthand much of what her characters go through in this amazing novel. Step by step, she leads a reader through uneasy anticipation of the storm, the shock of its power and destruction, and the harrowing situations after rescue.
“The heaviness up inside my own self was growing bigger and harder to carry every time another soggy, sad somebody joined our growing group. It was like all the sorrows coming together was turning into its own somebody. Everyone had the same look—scared, confused, hungry, and wore down.”
Characters and situations ring true. Armani is an unforgettable protagonist. Through her maturing perspective, young people can find inspiration in her growing strength and wisdom and her family’s resilience in the wake of more than one tragedy.
Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere will appeal to young people who have had to cope with catastrophe and its aftermath.
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About the Author
Julie T. Lamana lives in Greenwell Springs, Louisiana, and worked in an after-school program for children displaced by Hurricane Katrina, gaining a unique insight into their experiences surviving the storm. This book is a reflection of those experiences.
Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere, written by Juliet T. Lamana, was reviewed by Elizabeth Varadan. Discover more books like Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by following along with our reviews and articles tagged with Hurricane and Middle Grade Books.