Wild and Wonderful Wednesday: Storms

I'm not sure I'd call storms wonderful, but they are definitely wild. I do enjoy a good rain storm now and then, but not the kind of storms mentioned in the books I'm highlighting today.  But with the dreadful tornado season that the U.S. has had this year, and hurricane season under way, these books may help students understand the power of these storms.

The Great Wide Sea
by M. H. Herlong
Puffin Books, 2008.
Grades 4-8
Reviewed from personal copy.

Ben and his brothers have always loved sailing on the lake near their house.  But when their mother dies in an accident and their father decides to sell their house and sail around the Bahamas, they aren't so sure about life on a worn old sailboat so far from home.  Then one morning the boys wake up to discover that their dad is gone and they're lost halfway between the Bahamas and Bermuda.  What happened to their father? And what will they do when a treacherous storm looms on the horizon? (blurb from back of book)

This is a story of the power of Mother Nature and her storms, and the resilience of the human spirit.  Ben, the oldest boy (15/16) tells the story of his family's journey to healing and their struggle to survive both the internal and external storms they experience.  The writing is good, but secondary to the plot which pulls the reader along and involves the reader in the ups and downs of Ben, Dylan, Gerry, and their father. Recommended for those who like good, old-fashioned adventure and survival stories.

I Survived Hurricane Katrina, 2005
by Lauren Tarshis
Scholastic, 2011.
Grades 2-5
Reviewed from purchased copy.

The horror of Hurricane Katrina is brought vividly to life in this fictional account of a boy, a dog, and the storm of the century. Barry's family tries to evacuate before Hurricane Katrina hits their home in New Orleans. But when Barry's little sister gets terribly sick, they're forced to stay home and wait out the storm.At first, Katrina doesn't seem to be as bad as predicted. But overnight the levees break, and Barry's world is literally torn apart. He's swept away by the floodwaters, away from his family. Can he survive the storm of the century -- alone?
These I Survived books are great for reluctant readers.  They are short, action-packed, and interesting. The writing is just detailed enough for the reader to be able to put themselves into the action, but not so detailed that the action slows down.  Tarshis knows her audience and how to tell a gripping story.  Highly recommended for anyone who likes survival stories. The previous two books are I Survived The Sinking of the Titanic, 1912 and I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916The next one will come out in September and is called I Survived the Bombing of Pearl Harbor, 1941.

Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck
by Margarita Engle
Henry Holt and Company, 2011.
Grades 4-8
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Quebrado has been traded from pirate ship to ship in the Caribbean Sea for as long as he can remember. The sailors he toils under call him el quebrado—half islander, half outsider, a broken one. Now the pirate captain Bernardino de Talavera uses Quebrado as a translator to help navigate the worlds and words between his mother’s TaĆ­no Indian language and his father’s Spanish.
But when a hurricane sinks the ship and most of its crew, it is Quebrado who escapes to safety. He learns how to live on land again, among people who treat him well. And it is he who must decide the fate of his former captors.  (Goodreads.com)
This book tells a fascinating story about a part of the world that many children are unfamiliar with, despite it's close proximity to the U.S. The story is told through the viewpoints of several of the characters, which provides a deeper look at the events described. While the main character is fictional the other characters are not.  The story is a gripping one about slavery and what being free really means.  The fact that the story is told in free verse poetry may turn some students off, but if they will stick with it there is much to enjoy and learn.  This book would be great to use as a read-a-loud, or for class discussions.  Highly recommended for those who love a well-told story.


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