Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans Book Poster Image
Intense nonfiction graphic novel chronicles 2005 disaster.

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Kids say

age 12+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Drowned City provides a detailed look at the city of New Orleans before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina. It contains extensive source notes and a bibliography for further reading.

Positive Messages

In a disaster, people will work together to keep one another safe.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Emergency workers and ordinary citizens find the courage to help people endangered by the flood.


Shops and businesses are looted. Corpses litter the streets. Owners and pets are separated at gunpoint.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Drowned City is a short nonfiction graphic novel that presents a close-up look at the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Author-illustrator Don Brown has explored national tragedies before, in America Is Under Attack and The Great American Dust Bowl, and he brings a similar level of sensitivity and craftsmanship to this project. The artwork depicts distressing circumstances: people drowning, stores being looted, crowds of survivors waiting for rescue. The muted palette and Brown's somewhat abstract approach to the human figure prevents the material from being too overwhelming.

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Kid, 9 years old February 19, 2018

Drowned City is amazing!

I read this book for a book club with my teacher and one of my friends, and we all enjoyed it very much! My mom read it after me and she liked it a lot as well.... Continue reading

What's the story?

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, overwhelming the levees that were supposed to protect the city. Eighty percent of the city flooded, and more than 1,400 people lost their lives. DROWNED CITY chronicles the tragedy and triumph of those dark days, depicting brave rescues, widespread neglect, and brutal conditions.

Is it any good?

There have been many nonfiction accounts from New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but this book does a great job of presenting a nuanced overview that's suitable for young readers. Brown's text and illustrations convey the enormity of the storm and its aftermath without being overwhelming in intensity. Individual acts of bravery and kindness are contrasted against scenes of avoidable tragedy and terrible neglect. There's a political message here about the arrogance and incompetence of the federal and local governments, but it's subtly rendered through the simple statement of documented facts.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how governments respond to natural disasters. What could have been done to prevent the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina? What went wrong in the days after the storm? Did politics play a role?

  • What do you think of the graphic novel as a format for exploring historical events. Have you read any others?

  • How can your family be better prepared for a natural disaster? What plans should be in place to ensure a more positive outcome?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love graphic novels

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