Louis Armstrong Beach: the strength of a boy in Katrina
Title: Louis Armstrong Beach
Author: Brenda Woods
Saint Louis Armstrong Beach by Brenda Wood is the story of a New Orleans boy with a talent for creating beautiful tunes with his clarinet. Tunes so lovely tourists strolling along the Mississippi river can’t help but drop dollars –lots of them—at his feet.
Saint Louis Armstrong Beach is also the story of a neighborhood. Saint lives in the eclectic Treme section of New Orleans, a place with little wood-clad houses that all have porches and peeling paint and a heritage of jazz and togetherness that’s easy to feel.
But mostly, Saint Louis Armstrong Beach is the story of a natural disaster that’s been etched into our national psyche. Saint Louis Armstrong Beach, by the way, isn’t a geographical location. It’s the name of our main character. He’s an endearing, fully real young boy. Whatever happens to Saint happens to the reader, too.
And what happens in this story is the epic hurricane Katrina.
It’s easy to imagine the beauty of Saint Louis Armstrong Beach’s tunes, thanks to the lovely prose in this breathtaking novel.
Let’s take a look at the world of Saint Louis Armstrong Beach. Saint loves his clarinet and the stray dog that the whole neighborhood feeds. Louis has a sassy, pretty neighbor and he’s got an irrational crush on her, as can happen to many 12-year-olds. Saint has a colorful elderly friend who, like Saint, plays jazz for loose change. And he’s got a strong pair of parents, whose dedication to each other and their jobs comes into conflict as the Katrina storm swirls.
Saint’s mother works at the hospital, so the family sends Saint Louis to evacuate with his cousins. But when the stray dog, who Saint loves, slips away, Saint runs off to find him, bringing him back to his rapidly flooding neighborhood.
Saint finds one neighbor left, an old diabetic woman, and the two are pushed to her attic by the flooding. Eventually they get rescued by a helicopter and brought to the Superdome. Not wanting to go into that chaos, Saint heads back to his neighborhood where he finds neighbors and ultimately reunites with his family.
Everyone’s heard of Katrina. But very few have experienced it. Saint Louis Armstrong Beach allows kids to feel what it was like in those fateful hours when the Category 5 hurricane hit New Orleans dead on.