Reading Level: 4th Grade
Interest and Content Level: High School
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Pantheon; Reprint edition (August 24, 2010) http://knopfdoubleday.com/book/120869/ad/
- Meet the author: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAevRAnPi_g
A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge demonstrates how effective this graphic non-fiction genre can be. The author/illustrator, Josh Neufeld, interviewed eight survivors of Hurricane Katrina and put their stories together in a chronological format, all running simultaneously, from a couple of days before the storm hit to a few months after. It really made me feel like I was an eyewitness in way that a text-only book could not do. Some of the people that the book follows made the decision to stay in New Orleans and ride out the storm, while the rest were able to evacuate. Even though I found some of the dialogue to be trite, the story as a whole was very realistic.
The format of the book was interesting, but I can’t figure out what the color changes mean. Every 5-10 pages, the color would change. The drawings themselves are essentially black and white, but with different backgrounds. There may be red on a yellow background or dark purple on a light purple background, but the result is that for the reader it looks like black and white being looked at through a colored lens. I thought that the colors followed the characters or that each color was a different day, but neither of those theories turned out to be true. Maybe it’s just for variety.
The most interesting part of the book was that it gave a little insight into the decisions that people made when they decided to stay. For example, one character stayed because he felt that if he left, there would be nothing when he returned because of looting. He was a store owner, and he made the decision to make himself as safe as possible, but also to stay and guard his store and all of the inventory in the store. Other citizens had similar reasons, and they all probably would’ve been fine if the levees would have held. It was the breaking of the levees and the severe flooding that caused all of the long-lasting problems.
Another aspect of the story that was shocking was the inability of the local and national government to get help to the citizens in a more timely manner. Many of the citizens that were at the football stadium needed water, medical care, and food. If they tried to leave, they were turned back, but staying meant no food, water, or transportation. Fortunately, the men who the police would consider to be the criminal element, went out to local stores, broke in (or just went in if the store had damage from the storm), took the supplies they needed, and brought them back to the people in need. Some would call them looters, but I’m sure the people who needed the food and water called them heroes. This element of the “criminals” providing for the needy in their community is similar to another book I read recently, In Darkness by Nick Lake.
This book would appeal to reluctant readers for two reasons: 1) It is a graphic novel, which is much more appealing to reluctant readers — not so intimidating. 2) It’s based on real life, which, by its nature, is more interesting to reluctant readers and to boys in general. These reasons alone are enough for a library to add it to its collection, but it is also an interesting account of a historic event.
The author, Josh Neufeld, was a Red Cross volunteer during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. While volunteering he wrote a blog, which became the spark for A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge The blog, itself, was also published: Katrina Came Calling (not a graphic novel). Josh Neufeld has an interesting website with links to his newer works and information about all of his books, http://www.joshcomix.com/work/index.htm.