Thursday, March 15, 2012

Canadian calamities – Part 2

Today’s offerings are fictional accounts of two Canadian disasters.

A Terrible Roar of Water by Penny Draper (823 D79T3 FIC) recounts the impact of an earthquake and a tsunami on the east coast of Newfoundland in 1929.  The Burin Peninsula is scattered with many small remote, outport communities that rely upon the sea for their livelihoods.   Draper does a good job setting up the characters, drawing a clear picture of the people, culture and landscape that comprise one specific community.  The focus of the story is the impact of the disaster on the community rather than on character development.  Which doesn't mean that you won't get a good sense about Murphy, a twelve-year-old boy who has only two wants: to become a fisherman like his uncle  and father (who died in a fishing accident) and to have his mother come back from St. Johns  to live with him.  He's fairly thoughtful (though he doesn't always remember his promises to sort-of friend Annie) and is keen to build a house and boat dock of his own as a way to entice his mother to return to the village . After the tsunami recedes, the worsening weather conditions make the villagers realized their vulnerability .  Their winter provisions, homes and most possessions have disappeared and help may be a long time coming.  (I was left wondering if all Canadian disasters are followed by a snow storm.  See Monday's posting about the Halifax explosion for more on snow storms.) This is an interesting historical read and may appeal to kids in grades 4 to 7.

Another novel focussed on a water disaster is Safe as Houses by Eric Walters (823 W176S2 FIC).  Hurricane Hazel caused massive devastation in Southern Ontario in 1954.  This story is really focussed on one night of severe flooding, as three children barely cope with the rising water.  As with A Terrible Roar of Water there’s not much in the way of character development or in the way of setting.  We know that Weston, Ontario is a smallish town with new houses being built along the river valley.  It’s been raining heavily for days and the water is running fast and furious.   Twelve-year-old Lizzie is babysitting David and Suzie, waiting for their parents to return from Toronto.  The weather is so bad that they can’t get back and Lizzie is left to manage for the night.  She’s horrified to find that water has flooded the main floor of the house and is rising very quickly.  The streets are impassable so the kids go to the top of the house.  The unfinished house proves a blessing as sitting in the rafters means they don’t have to deal with the elements – at least, not yet.  Eventually, the water rises high enough to cause Lizzie and David to look for a way through the roof. Once perched on the roof the house slowly begins to shift from its foundations, instigating a daring jump into the river to hopefully catch hold of a few trees still able to withstand the river.  The children are eventually rescued.  This is based on a true story which the author includes a portion of at the end of the book.  Good tension is built even as we anticipate what will happen; wonder how the kids will manage and if they survive.  This quick read will work with grades 5 to 9.


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