Saint Louis Armstrong Beach

Common Sense Media says

Boy risks all to find his dog after Hurricane Katrina.





What parents need to know

Educational value

Vivid introduction to the people and culture of New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina; shows the impact of the disaster on one boy, his dog, and his family in a way many kids his age will find resonant with their own experience.

Positive messages

Loyalty to your loved ones -- including your dog -- will get you through the worst of times. This book abounds with positive messages about family and community members of all ages and ethnicities rallying round to help each other as a matter of course. Positive values are often on view, e.g. Saint is saving money so he can go to Juilliard; his 12-year-old neighbor is swiftly grounded for hosting a drinking party in her mom's absence.

Positive role models

Characters, both children and adults, in the story generally model positive behavior -- being responsible, helpful, generous, with a strong sense of community. On the rare occasions when they make a spectacularly bad decision, they are swiftly returned to a better path by strict but loving parents.


There are allusions to looting and bad treatment of people in the wake of Katrina, but no gory details. Characters sometimes pull shotguns on suspected looters.


Eleven-year-old Saint is kissed on the cheek by 12-year-old neighbor MonaLisa and realizes he likes it. When an elderly musician friend gives him a clarinet, Saint assures his father that the man is "not a weirdo."


Mild profanity ("crap," "booty"); matter-of-fact discussion of bodily functions in the context of being stranded without bathroom facilities during the hurricane. Characters sometimes speak various forms of slang and dialect rather than standard English, consistent with the local setting.


MonaLisa is deeply embarrassed that her mother is very loudly telling the whole neighborhood that they're en route to her sister's wedding at the Ritz-Carlton.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Twelve-year-old MonaLisa, who has started hanging with a cool older crowd, invites them all over in her mom's absence for a party that cleans out her mother's entire liquor supply, which is not discovered until her mother is about to host a big party. Eight months later, MonaLisa is still grounded.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this story is set in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. While the protagonist, named Saint, does not always do exactly as he's told -- and sometimes that's the wrong decision for which he pays the price -- his loving parents and community and his own resourcefulness have given him the qualities he needs when disaster strikes his world. Parents should also be aware that there's a thread concerning a classmate reading Saint's palm and claiming he has a short life line, and the debunking of that curse. Also, characters sometimes speak various forms of slang and dialect rather than standard English, consistent with the local setting.

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Kids say

What's the story?

Eleven-year-old Saint Louis Armstrong Beach -- named after his none-too-saintly grandpa King Daddy Saint and the New Orleans musical legend he frequently accompanied -- is a budding clarinet virtuoso who is raising money to one day go to Julliard by playing for tourists, accompanied by Shadow, the neighborhood stray dog. Everything changes overnight when Hurricane Katrina heads for the city and his best-laid plans to bring Shadow along when his family evacuates fail. Doubling back to the city in search of the dog, he soon finds himself and Shadow at the home of an elderly neighbor who refused to evacuate, all hoping to get through the hurricane alive.

Is it any good?


Any kid who loves a dog is going to appreciate this well-told story of loyalty in the face of adversity, and probably learn a bit about responsibility in the process. But all kids in the 9-and-up group will relate to the way Saint is very independent and grown-up one minute and suddenly terrified and missing his parents when the hurricane gets scary.

Parents will appreciate the positive characters, the strong community values, and the window on the unique culture of New Orleans. They'll probably be especially amused by a neighbor named Squirrel, a professor at Tulane, whose every sentence is a vocabulary lesson.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how natural disasters are a regular feature on the evening news. What types of disasters are likely where you live? What are your family's disaster plans? Do you know what to do if you're separated when disaster strikes? Do you have arrangements for where to meet and how to get in touch?

  • Most of the time, it's important to do what you're told. But if Saint had done what he was told and stayed with his uncle, his dog, Shadow, and Mrs. Moran could have died. When is it important to think for yourself, and what values should guide you?

  • Even though Shadow starts out the book as the neighborhood stray, Saint does a number of things that show that he's a responsible dog owner. What are some of them? If you have a dog, how do you take care of him?

Book details

Author:Brenda Woods
Genre:Contemporary Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Nancy Paulsen Books
Publication date:September 1, 2011
Number of pages:144
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12

This review of Saint Louis Armstrong Beach was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 12 years old March 21, 2013

It was Okay

It was a pretty good book, but afterwards, I got nightmares that I was in the same situation, but we didn't make it out safely. I liked it because of how suspenseful it was, even though it ends in an annoying cliffhanger
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 11 years old August 23, 2014


I don't know about this


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