As you may already know, one of my goals is to read all fifteen books on the Florida Sunshine State list every year so I can better promote these books to my students. Well, I read Saint Louis Armstrong Beach by Brenda Woods a few months ago, but hadn’t been able to get around to writing the review until now.
Saint is a boy with confidence as big as his name is long. A budding musician, he earns money playing clarinet for the New Orleans tourists. His best friend is a stray dog named Shadow, and it’s because of Shadow that Saint’s still in town when Hurricane Katrina hits. Saint’s not worried about the hurricane at first – he plans to live to be a hundred just to defy his palm-reader friend Jupi, who told him he had a short life line. But now the city has been ordered to evacuate and Saint won’t leave without Shadow. His search brings him to his elderly neighbor’s home and the three of them flee to her attic when the waters rise. But when Miz Moran’s medication runs out, it’s up to Saint to save her life – and his beloved Shadow’s.
This is a quick read about a teenage boy caught up in the middle of the historic Hurricane Katrina. Saint Louis Armstrong Beach, our main character, is as lovable and energetic as his beloved New Orleans. Although a story about Hurricane Katrina, Saint Louis Armstrong Beach is really a coming of age story where Saint is forced to reckon with the truly meaningful issues in life.
Wood’s writing had me hooked and from the beginning I wanted to read more and more. She included so much pre-hurricane build up that by the time the storm sets in, you’re already anxious with anticipation. Living in Florida since middle school I’ve experienced my own share of hurricanes (although none as devastating as Katrina) and I can say that Woods hits the pre-storm anticipation and build-up right on the nose!
So far, Saint Louis Armstrong Beach has been very popular with my students. I have a school full of reluctant readers and this book is high interest and very short in length (heaven in their eyes!). I sincerely recommend this book if you’re searching for a good read for the reluctant reader in your life, but remember it is also captivating enough to entertain those middle school book lovers as well.