Allison's Book Bag

Saint Louis Armstrong Beach by Brenda Woods

Posted on: March 21, 2013

An engaging story, Saint Louis Armstrong Beach by Brenda Woods is about an eleven-year-old who loves music and a neighborhood dog. The ending is somewhat abrupt, and with too many contrivances, but I still enjoyed this story set in New Orleans at the time Hurricane Katrina hit.

Main character Saint endears himself to me, first because of his dream to save up for a clarinet. Mind you, he doesn’t want just any clarinet. His sights are on a L1020 Step-Up Pro Clarinet, which will set him back $1200 but he’s willing to work hard to earn. Second, there’s the neighborhood dog. Shadow is a noisy Labrador, who prefers to roam free and without a collar, but has taken to showing up on Saint’s doorstep on Saturdays. On the day Hurricane Katrina, their relationship is put to the test.

The setting of New Orleans rings true because of the subtle details. Saint refers to the muddy Mississippi River, big-enough-for-dinner fish, big-mouth pelicans, and noisy seagulls. As he takes his rounds to play clarinet music for tourists, I can visualize his neighborhood because Saint both names and describes its streets and shops. When at home, his mom and Saint prepare gumbo and other dishes whose origins are in the area. Author Woods has roots in New Orleans and this shines through in her tale.

The bulk of the action surrounding Hurricane Katrina also feels accurate. The action starts out innocently enough, with Saint’s parents informing him that a tropical storm is supposed to hit Florida. In response to the news, Saint brainstorms ways to keep Shadow nearby, so the family can take Shadow with them if the worst happens. The moment the storm is upgraded to a hurricane some families leave, which leads to a discussion between Saint and his dad about why some families choose to stay. The fear which the rising water and the destructive winds of Hurricane Katrina create in Saint make for a suspenseful story, which only slightly misses its mark due to the contrived and abrupt end.

Despite this, Saint Louis Armstrong Beach is  powerful story about the New Orleans region, one of United States most damaging hurricanes, and the love of family. Enthusiastically recommended!

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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