Zane and the Hurricane

Zane Dupree, a twelve-year-old kid from New Hampshire, is not exactly thrilled about spending a week in New Orleans. He’s never been there, he’s never met the great-grandmother he’ll be staying with, and he doesn’t really know what to expect from his visit. At least he gets to take his dog, Bandy, with him.

At first, things aren’t as bad as he thought they would be. His great-grandmother, Miss Trissy, might be an older lady who walks with two canes, but she sings like an angel, and she’s got a story or a song for everything. But stories and songs won’t prepare anyone for the storm about to hit the city. Hurricane Katrina is on her way, and Zane, Bandy, and Miss Trissy need to get out of New Orleans fast.

It should have been a simple evacuation, but Zane’s frightened dog leads him right back into the city that is soon to be destroyed. As Zane and Bandy hole up in Miss Trissy’s house, the storm hits. Winds scream through the long night, and, as morning dawns, Zane watches as water overtakes much of New Orleans. Their only hope is to make it to the sweltering attic and hope that help will come soon.

Help comes in the form of a canoe, a musician named Tru, and Malvina, a young girl with a joke for even the most somber of occasions. As Zane, Bandy, Tru, and Malvina navigate the waters that have flooded the city, they are confronted with death, destruction, and both the best and worst in humanity. Some people are willing to give aid to others even when they don’t have much themselves. Others either look to exploit the situation or only worry about themselves or saving things as inconsequential as Oriental rugs.

There seems to be no real rescue coming from any source, so it’s up to this foursome to save themselves. Zane and company have to stick together, even when it would be easier to leave someone behind, if they’re to have any hope of making it out with their sanity–and their humanity–in tact.

Zane and the Hurricane by Rodman Philbrick is a story that pieces together very real stories from the catastrophe that was Hurricane Katrina. It addresses the lawlessness that plagued New Orleans, the absence or apathy of law enforcement, lack of medical care, the fear and prejudice against poor African-Americans who were just trying to survive, and the horrible conditions both outside and in the Superdome, also known as the “shelter of last resort.” It also highlights that there were people who behaved like true heroes. People who rescued others from flooding homes, people who gave freely of what little water and food they had, and people who stood up for those who were doing everything possible just to make it one more day in grim circumstances.

A Dog’s Way Home

Abby’s best friend is her beloved Shetland sheepdog, Tam. The two are always together, and they even compete in agility competitions (which they usually win because they seem to read each others’ minds). On the way home from a competition in Virginia, however, a horrible accident on the treacherous Blue Ridge Parkway separates Abby and Tam. Abby is sure that her precious dog is still alive and trying to find his way back to her…all the way home to Harmony Gap, North Carolina.  Even when Abby and her family move to Nashville (something Abby is not happy about), she never loses hope that she will be reunited with Tam one day.

Tam is lost and alone for the first time in his life.  He has only two goals:  survive and find his way back to his girl.  As Tam makes his way south toward where he’s sure he’ll find Abby, surviving is becoming more difficult.  Winter is on its way, and Tam must rely on all his instincts–and the help of some surprising new friends–to live through the season.  As the days, weeks, and months pass, Tam begins to forget much about his old life as he becomes more like a wild animal and less like the pampered dog he once was.  But, somehow, he always remembers that he belongs somewhere else, and he is doing everything he can to get back to the place–and the girl–that is his true home.

Both Abby and Tam are facing new situations and dangers they never expected, but these two friends have a bond that transcends everything.  It’s this bond that helps both of them hope for the day when they’ll see each other again.  Even though hundreds of miles separate them, Abby and Tam are determined to find each other…and they’ll stop at nothing to make that happen.  Find out how Tam makes his way home to Abby’s welcoming arms when you read A Dog’s Way Home by Bobbie Pyron.

I’m confident that my students will devour this book.  Books about dogs are not exactly a hard sell in my library anyway, but I think this one stands out from the crowd.  A Dog’s Way Home is told from both Abby’s and Tam’s perspectives, so it shows how strong the relationship between pet and owner can truly be.  Anyone who’s ever had a pet will appreciate this.

There are so many things to love about A Dog’s Way Home–the setting, the relationships, the will to survive, and the love between Abby and Tam.  I sincerely believe that my students will enjoy this book as much as I did.  I highly recommend this book to all readers, especially those in 3rd-6th grades who have a special bond with their own pets.

For more information about this heart-warming book and author Bobbie Pyron, visit http://www.bobbiepyron.com/.

Wild River

Twelve-year-old Ryan doesn’t have much in common with his older brother, Tanner.  Ryan likes to spend his time sleeping and playing video games.  Tanner enjoys outdoorsy stuff like camping, fishing, and kayaking.  Now, Tanner has decided that it’s time for Ryan to enjoy those things, too.

Ryan and Tanner set out down the river in their big rubber kayak, and things are okay at first.  Soon, though, the going gets rough.  Tanner is seriously injured, and it’s up to Ryan to take care of his older brother and find some way to get help.  Tanner is the one who’s good at all of this stuff, but Ryan must find a way to overcome his doubts and fears so that he can save his brother.  But how can he do this?  Being good at playing video games hasn’t prepared him to survive in the woods…or has it?  Will Ryan find a way to use his video game skills to save his brother’s life and his own?  Find out for yourself when you read Wild River by P.J. Petersen.

I think Wild River is a great book for readers who like camping, hiking, fishing, and other outdoor activities.  (I do not, but I did kind of enjoy this book.)  This book is full of adventure and suspense.  If you enjoy books like Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, you’ll definitely want to read Wild River.