A high-spirited picture book offers history lessons and coping techniques

 May 31, 2007. Jacksonville, FL:  When Hurricane Dora slammed ashore at Jacksonville Beach, Florida in 1964, resident Nancy Murray was a young mother. She sheltered her four young children beneath a mattress and a table top as a giant oak crashed through the garage roof. Forty-one years later she viewed on television, in reminiscent horror, Hurricane Katrina’s berserk rampage through the Gulf Coast.

Pascagoula, Mississippi artist Sandy Ford watched the storm’s rampage in real-time from the safety of a bank building’s second floor windows. In the aftermath, the two hurricane-seasoned women decided to alleviate the depression that follows catastrophic events. They created a children’s picture story book that revisits both the bad and the best of America’s worst natural disaster, Hurricane Katrina, Gullah, The Nawleans Cat Meets Katrina is written by Nancy Murray and illustrated by Sandy Ford.  

While adult books chronicle the darker side of the historic event, Murray and Ford fill the gap in children’s literature with a charming alternative. Gullah’s story, part-whimsy, part-reality, tells of a mischievous cat caught in Hurricane Katrina. In word and image author and artist recreate the harrowing events of the storm but focus on the helicopter rescues that save the lives of the now-new-homeless. Ford painted all sixteen watercolor illustrations sitting on a buoy in the FEMA trailer where she lives waiting the rebuilding of her demolished home. 

Gullah’s adventures, says Murray, are triple in appeal. Besides entertaining, teaching and inspiring the young, “grown-up” aficionados of New Orleans discover the book sparks an irresistible nostalgia. Animal lovers and evacuees forced to leave cherished pets behind hope the book will enhance the credibility of legislation that allows animals to be sheltered with owners. And for all hurricane survivors the book speaks to the best in the human spirit; the will to conquer the darkness.    

Because Katrina left behind sadness and destruction, Gullah is the book with a joyous Mardi Gras spirit that wants to rebuild the Gulf Coast. For this reason a portion of the sales is donated to credible Katrina relief organizations. Groups wishing to use the book as personal fundraisers will receive discount rates.

The two women call the book “history in a teacup.” With characteristic élan, Murray says, “We turned the tables on those “wicked ladies” who tore up our towns. As Kitchey-Gee tells Gullah, ‘Sometimes you have to sing grief, rather than cry it.’ Gullah, The Nawleans Cat Meets Katrina is a song waiting to be sung.” The book is available at and

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  • Gullah, The Nawleans Cat Meets Katrina
  • Copyright 2007