Saint Louis Armstrong Beach

Kirkus' Review
This gripping addition to the growing body of fiction portraying Katrina’s
profound effect on children and families pits an 11-year-old boy, a
neighborhood dog and an elderly woman against the hurricane and
subsequent devastating flood.

Narrator Saint is a gifted clarinetist with Juilliard dreams and a soft spot for
Shadow, a black Lab mix he longs to fully claim. Families flee Tremé, but Saint’
s mom, a dedicated hospital social worker, toils overtime as Katrina homes in.
Pops arranges for Saint to evacuate with Uncle Hugo’s family, but Shadow—to
Saint’s tearful dismay—runs off. Shadow’s pivotal in the plotting, as Saint slips
back into town to find him. Fate tosses boy and dog in with stubborn neighbor
Miz Moran, who’s evaded her own relatives in order to remain at home. Their
attic confinement is a study in contrasts: The woman’s good planning yields
battery-operated fans and freeze-dried ice cream, but unplanned-for issues
include her worsening health and dog poop. Saint bests the flooded house to
retrieve Miz Moran’s insulin; the lady’s casual admission that her three heart
attacks “was mild ones” ratchets tension. Woods’ marvelous characterizations
of Saint and Miz Moran more than stand up to the vivid backdrop of the
flooded, chaotic city. Shadow’s credulity-straining heroics will please kids.

A small gem that sparkles with hope, resilience and the Crescent City’s unique,
jazz-infused spirit. (Historical fiction)
Age Range: 9 - 12

Starred Review
School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—Saint Louis Armstrong Beach is an 11-year-old, clarinet-playing
resident of Tremé, a neighborhood near the French Quarter in New Orleans.
As Saint saves up his street-performing tips for a new clarinet and tries to
make sense of his broken relationship with his former best friend, a
catastrophic storm gathers. Saint is forced to evacuate the city, but decides to
turn back in search of the neighborhood stray dog. He ends up heading right
into the path of Hurricane Katrina. With his engaging voice, readers will quickly
take a shine to Saint. The dialogue is strong, smooth, and natural. The food,
music, and tempo of New Orleans all come to life, told with an efficiency that
keeps interest high. The conclusion is a bit abrupt, however, leaving some
loose ends. Woods skillfully provides a sense of the growing tension as the
storm approaches. The real-life events of Hurricane Katrina—the evacuation,
the levees failing, the Superdome— are integrated smoothly into the story.
While the tragedy of the event is not glossed over, the overall theme is one of
hope.—Travis Jonker, Dorr Elementary School, MI

Children's Literature
Some stories of suffering, kindness, perseverance and hope are written with
style and grace; others are pedantic. This story falls in the first category, with
a charming boy who aspires to study clarinet at Julliard when he grows up. The
boy is named Saint after his grandfather; Louis Armstrong after the jazz
trumpet player; and Beach because that is his father's last name. Of course,
he has to suffer through all kinds of comments about the Saint part of his
name. He is well known for his musical ability and aspirations, as well as his
kind nature. Saint makes money as a street musician, saving for a
professional-grade clarinet and his tuition at Julliard. He befriends a street dog
named Shadow that always hangs around like a "shadow." He lives in the
Treme section of New Orleans and life is good until Hurricane Katrina hits. He
ends up stranded in an elderly neighbor's house, where he and the neighbor
and Shadow ride out the storm. The story gives a good flavor of life in Treme,
at least as depicted in the cable TV series of the same name. The book is a
nice addition to any school library and a good starting point for discussions of
hurricanes, community values, music, and heroism. Reviewer: Sarah Maury