Fried chicken and pinto beans. “I’d give my eyetooth” and “getting a goose egg on your head.” Iceboxes and clotheslines and feather beds and porch swings. Dr. Pepper and lemonade to drink. Playing dominoes in the parlour and croquet in the front yard. Hand-cranked ice cream and watermelon. The Tremont Hotel and Ashton Villa in Galveston and Hyde Park in Austin. I could tell that Julie Lake is a native Texan when I read about all these things and even more Texas-y stuff in this fiction book for elementary age children about the Galveston hurricane of 1900.
I read Isaac’s Storm by about a month ago, so it was interesting to compare the information in these two very different books about the same event. Isaac’s Storm is nonfiction, written for adult readers, and would be good background material for teachers or older children who read Ms. Lake’s book for fun or as an introduction to a study of hurricanes and natural disasters or Texas history.
Published by TCU Press, this story takes a long time to lead up to the crisis of the hurricane —all summer long, in fact. Fourteen year old Abby Kate is visiting her grandmother in Galveston for a few weeks. Illness in the family at home in Austin means that Abby Kate must stay in Galveston for a lot longer than originally planned. And she’s still there on September 9, 1900 when the deadliest disaster to ever hit the United States comes to Galveston Island, a category four hurricane.
I’m not sure that someone from, say Michigan, would enjoy this book quite the same way I did. The familiar colloquialisms and the comfort foods and the Texas details were so much fun. However, it’s a good story in its own right, and especially timely as we face another hurricane season a year after Katrina and Rita reminded us that even in the twenty-first century hurricanes can still wreak havoc. Not only does Ms. Lake spend several chapters leading up to the hurricane’s arrival, her descriptions of the event itself are vivid and compelling. Then the reader gets to see how people on the Island and on the mainland coped with the aftermath of the hurricane.
Lots of historical detail, information about sailing ships and steam trains, and book characters that make the history come to life all make this book an excellent choice for middle grade (3-6) readers and classrooms. I’m thinking that we could use it a the basis for a unit study in our homeschool co-op, tie in a field trip or two to Galveston and to the Weather Service. Yes, I definitely recommend this one for Texas readers and for others who are interested in the turn of the century history and or in Texas history or in the history of natural disasters.