Penny Draper has the voice of a storyteller, and like all good stories, Day of the Cyclone cries to be read out loud. Not only do the voices of the characters ring true, but the voice of the narrator also clearly rings through.
Set against the backdrop of Regina’s 1912 “cyclone,” which was actually a tornado, this book is part of the Coteau Books for Kids’ Disaster Strikes! series.
The story revolves around young Ella Barclay, daughter of the local banker, and Billy Forsythe, a mysterious boy she meets, who is newly arrived in the city. Their initial encounter goes badly, and their misunderstandings continue at length. This is compounded by the fact that Billy has something to hide, and Ella’s parents do not approve of the newcomer they view as lower class.
The book is a mix of fact and fiction, and Draper masterfully weaves the two together. She has done her research well, and carefully crafts the facts into a compelling creative narrative. For example, in addition to creating fictional characters, she uses the names of actual people and incorporates into her narrative the true story of the little white dog that stayed with its dead master until he was buried. Draper incorporates archival photos into the story by having Ella use her new Brownie camera, a present for her 13th birthday, to record the destruction.
Draper uses the story as a teaching tool, bringing in elements of suffragettes, ethnic minorities, and discrimination, while entertaining in the process. What a delightful way to learn!
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