Title: Hooper Finds a Family
Author: Jane Paley
Publisher: HarperCollins

When Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans and busted the levees, over one-quarter of a million pets, from dogs to goldfish, were left behind as their families raced out of the path of destructive. Animal rescue workers spent countless hours trying to round them up, get them back to their families, and in many cases, find them new families. Hooper Finds a Family: A Hurricane Katrina Dog’s Survival Tale tells the tale of one of those dogs. Hooper’s family, like many pet families, left him behind when the storm started, assuming they’d be back to get him quickly. They were good people who loved Hooper, then called Jimmy, very much , but the circumstances prevented them from getting back to him in time. Hooper is swept away with the flood, saved by an otter who teaches him how to “go with the flow,” and gets rescued by a man in a yellow rain coat. But Hooper’s rescue is just the beginning. He still has to find a new family and learn to adapt in a world much different than the one in which he came from.

Hooper Finds a Family is written for children and told through the eyes of the little yellow lab puppy. Since it’s written for middle-grade kids, the language is relatively simple and the horrors of Katrina are kept to a minimum. Author Jane Paley doesn’t sugarcoat it, but it’s not going to give your children nightmares. I’m a crier when it comes to animal stories, so I of course bawled when poor Hooper was scared and lost in the torrents, and again when he was terrified of meeting his new family (especially since the dad wasn’t all that thrilled about him at first), and of course again when everything worked out for the sweet, “good ‘ol boy” puppy. This is a great book to help younger children understand the ramifications of that hurricane, and to inspire them to think of ways they could help other animals in the same situation as Hooper. It’s also excellent for helping children learn about adapting to a new environment, such as a new school in a different city, as Hooper travels from Louisiana to New York City and learns to fit in with the city dogs. Hooper’s braveness, especially in the face of the first storm he goes through after being rescued, is definitely inspiring. I would recommend this book for ages 8 and up.

Although the book is told from the point of view of the dog, Hooper Finds a Family is based on a true story. Today, Hooper works as a therapy dog and inspires children to read by accompanying Jane to schools and libraries for story time. Part of the proceeds from the book go towards Labs4rescue, the organization that brought Jane and Hooper together. In Hooper Finds a Family, Hooper’s tale has a happy ending, but there are still hundreds of thousands of animals out there waiting for their own happy ending. Please keep that in mind when you’re considering adding a new four-legged (or two-legged in the case of birds, or no-legged in the case of fish) member to your family.