Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere

Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere
Written by Julie Lamana

Publisher’s Summary:
Armani Curtis can think about only one thing: her tenth birthday. She’s having a party, her mama is making a big cake, and she has a good feeling about a certain wrapped box. Turning ten years old is a big deal to Armani. It means she’s older, wiser, more responsible. But when Hurricane Katrina hits the Lower Nines of New Orleans and tears her world apart, Armani realizes that being ten means being brave, watching loved ones die, and mustering all her strength to help her family weather the storm. A gripping story of courage and survival, Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere celebrates the power of hope and love in the face of the unthinkable.

Primary Source Pairing:
Armani, her family, and the people of New Orleans experienced an unimaginable tragedy when Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath of floods destroyed much of the city. As adults, we remember seeing the news footage in 2005 of the water rising and the panic in New Orleans as the people were trapped with nowhere to go. The majority of our students were not born or still quite little when Hurricane Katrina hit. Armani’s story gives young readers a first-person account of the terror during that time in New Orleans. For this primary source pairing, invite students to study an image of a Barber Shop that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and the storm surge.

As the time and space allow, expand on this primary source analysis activity by seeking out additional images and creating a picture walk experience for students. Place multiple images of New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina on tables in the instructional space. Ask students to study the images and find one that connects with something they read in the book. As an extension, challenge students to write or discuss how the image they chose relates to the book Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What people and objects are shown?
  • How are they arranged?
  • What is the physical setting?
  • What, if any, words do you see?
  • What other details can you see?
  • What can you learn from examining this image?
  • How does this image make you feel?
  • What questions do you have while analyzing this image?
  • Make a connection to what you see in this image to something you read in the book Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere.

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
“Barber Shop located in Ninth Ward, New Orleans, Louisiana, damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005:” Photograph by Carol M. Highsmith at the Library of Congress

Hurricane Katrina Image Galleries:
Pulitzer Prize 2006
LA Times
Library of Congress

Additional Primary Source Pairing:
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, Written and Illustrated by Don Brown