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  • Writer's pictureCheré Dastugue Coen

Holt's 'The Hurricane Girls' a delight for middle school readers

On this last day of hurricane season, we review a charming book about resilience and forgiveness in the shadow of a mighty storm.

the hurricane girls

The anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches in less than two years, a disaster imprinted on my memory. For young people picking up Kimberly Willis Holt's latest novel, Katrina doesn't even register.

In "The Hurricane Girls," Holt introduces us to three seventh graders who were born in the wake of the hurricane that roared through New Orleans in August 2005. Because Greer, Joya Mia and Kiki never witnessed the storm, their history teacher assigned them the "Hurricane Project," and asked them to interview those family members and friends who experienced Hurricane Katrina.

What they discover are unique stories but ones that paint a full picture.

"Their own personal hurricane stories were completely different from one another's, but somehow the differences felt like puzzle pieces connecting perfectly together," Holt writes in the introduction.

By the time the threesome finished their report, they became known as the "Hurricane Girls."

The story takes place in 2018 as the girls tackle seventh grade. Greer wants to be a track star, Latino Joya Mia's parents moved to New Orleans when she was a baby to work in restaurant and construction jobs and have now opened their own eatery, working endless hours, and Kiki is an entrepreneur struggling with body insecurities. Kiki was born on Katrina's landfall — Aug. 25, 2005, and is named for the storm.

kimberly willis holt
KImberly Willis Holt

As much as the title and girls' background point to Katrina, the story revolves around Greer and the accident to her little sister, Darby, that changed both their lives. Greer enlists her baby sister on a run through the neighborhood, against her parents' instructions, and a car accident leaves Darby paralyzed. Consumed with guilt, Greer quits running and falls into a depression. The threesome falters.

"Last summer had a been a great one: sleepovers and matinees at Greer's dad's movie theater," Holt writes in Kiki's chapter. "Lately Greer was quiet and sad, and that had upset the trio's balance. Now they were like a tricycle with one loose wheel."

Kiki and Joya Mia decide to enter a triathlon to pull Greer from her depression and inspire her to follow her dream. Each girl prepares to take a portion of the challenge: Joya Mia will bike, Kiki will swim and Greer will run. Only Joya Mia and Kiki need to not only perfect their sport but to learn it! It's all in the determination to restore a valued friendship.

"The Hurricane Girls" explores the golden bonds of friendship, of resilience from many forms of tragedies and the healing power of forgiveness.

when zachary beaver came to town

Holt is the award-winning author of more than 20 books, including "When Zachary Beaver Came to Town," winner of the National Book Award for Young People's Literature and "Louisiana Sky," a novel for young readers that was later made into a movie.

You can read more about Holt and her ties to a special Louisiana community here.

Weird, Wacky & Wild South

is written by avid reader and

author Cheré Dastugue Coen.

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