Armani is excited to celebrate her 10th birthday with her family and close friends from the Ninth Ward in New Orleans. But as a hurricane named Katrina closes in on the city, it threatens to blow her party away before it even arrives. She’s happy that her family decides to stay put, and she’s thrilled that one of the presents she receives is a special locket her grandma passes down to her. But the next day a wall of water washes away all her happiness and everything comforting and familiar. Before her ordeal is over, Armani will have matured well beyond her years.
Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana tells the story of Ninth Ward life through the eyes of the Curtis family, with its hard working parents, five children and a grandma that helps provide care for the whole clan. Armani’s life before Katrina included school, squabbles with her older brother and younger sister, and lots of interaction with extended family. She knew where she fit into the neighborhood and where everyone else did too. Her biggest desires were to get donuts for breakfast and a puppy for her birthday.
The flood after the storm changed all that. As everything she knows gets turned upside down, Armani faces the death of loved ones, chaos in the city, and uncertainty about the future. Facing losses that would break even adults, Armani changes from a carefree child to someone who knows that family is the most important connection in a crisis, and sometimes family is forged from the people you would least expect.
The publisher recommends Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere for ages 8 to 12. I recommend the book because I think it does a good job of capturing what life was like in New Orleans both before and after Katrina and because Armani’s journey will give readers a lot to think about and discuss. But parents will want to know that it doesn’t flinch when describing the death and destruction that hit New Orleans during that time and be cautious with younger, sensitive readers.
The publisher gave me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.