We did it! Hurricane Boy by Laura Roach Dragon, published by Pelican Publishers, is hot off the press! Okay, Laura actually wrote the book. “We” is like the four-year-old who put the napkins on the table after Grandma spent the week in the kitchen cooking Thanksgiving dinner and proudly says, “I helped.” It could also be compared to the scene in My Fair Lady when Professor Higgins and Colonel Pickering congratulate themselves singing “We did it” while ignoring Liza, the one who really pulled the ruse off.
Let me clarify, her name really is Laura Roach Dragon. It is not like Lemony Snicket, an invented name to appeal to her middle grade audience. She’s had a bit of trouble convincing some of those on the business end of this book. They’ve sent back papers asking her to sign her “real name” to the document. However perfect her name is for a middle grade author, she did not make it up.
She did write a fine story. We [the Louisiana/Mississippi SCBWI group that meets monthly] heard early drafts – that were already good – and offered encouragement and critiques. Drawing on her twenty years of counseling as a licensed clinical social worker and her own experience before and after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Laura introduces us to a Ninth Ward New Orleans family, already dealing with crisis even before the storm hits. Hollis, his two brothers, and a sister live with Gee, their maternal grandmother. Their father abandoned them as their mother was dying of cancer. Diabetic Gee is in a wheelchair. She, along with most of the neighbors, ignores the warnings of the “weather idiots” who tell of storms that never materialize or swing another way. Except this one comes and the levees break.
I feel the rush of water when the levee sends the flood, covering everything in the house but the attic, and share the mad scramble to the roof. My hands hurt as I hold onto the roof and my arms ache while I wonder if any of the helicopters that come and go will do more than take pictures. I panic along with twelve-year-old Hollis when the family breaks up in different rescues, and he is left as the oldest in charge of his younger brother and sister. I suffer the boredom of the shelter through days of waiting when no news comes from the scattered family. I become Hollis, trying to be strong enough to protect my siblings and make things right again.
This is a book for anyone who experienced Hurricane Katrina or a similar disaster, for those who know family estrangement, for middle graders, for lovers of a good story. Laura’s characters are unique rather than stereotypes. The good ones have flaws and the bad ones points of sympathy.
My mother had an Appalachian saying she used when people hogged credit for what someone else did, “We killed a bar’. Pa shot it.” To paraphrase a bit, “We made a book. Laura wrote it.”
(Laura is on the left helping critique another member's writings at one of our SCBWI meetings.)
I do know who gets credit here. I’ m holding onto the idea, nevertheless, that this is like a championship win with the home crowd advantage. We helped by screaming “Lau-ra! Lau-ra! Lau-ra!”