Day of the Cyclone {Living Book Review}

Day of the CycloneTitle: Day of the Cyclone
 Penny Draper
Publisher: Coteau Books

Age Range: Children (9+)
Time Period: 1912
Location: Regina, Saskatchewan

It’s the summer of 1912 in Regina, Saskatchewan, and Ella Barclay is bored with her life. Things look up when she receives a camera for her birthday. A camera! “To make a great picture,” says her father, “you must look for the story.

Looking for the story leads her to Billy Forsythe, the new boy at school. He definitely isn’t boring. He wants to be Ella’s friend, but he’s hiding something. And he’s a liar. Can she trust him? 

All of a sudden Ella’s life gets more interesting than she ever wanted it to be. She and her school friends are picnicking at Wascana Lake. In the late afternoon a terrible storm builds south of the city. Ella hears a noise like a train at her back and runs for home. 

Can she survive the cyclone? What will happen to her city? And what about Billy?

Sometimes there are just books you can’t put down – you want to know what will happen next and before you realize it, you’ve turned the last page. For me, this was one of those stories. Transporting the reader to the early part of the 1900’s in an early settling of western Canada – I was instantly captivated by the abrupt frustrations of a young lady in that time frame and the limitations placed on her. No more playing, no running, wearing petticoats, sitting quietly, following the rules.

This book shows a lot of contrasting situations – not only between the genders, but also between the social classes and even cultural. Rich against poor. Established businessmen against struggling to survive.

Ella’s experience with her little camera and the new boy, Billy, at school make for a great way to build a community for the reader to visualize – making the whole devastation of the tornado more real and more vivid. Throughout the book, we are shown actual photos and then the aftermath – as if we were seeing through Ella’s little camera. The characters are so bright and interesting.

The tornado that hit Regina in 1912, one of the biggest ever recorded in Canadian history, has been categorized at least as an F4 (with the possibility it was actually an F5). The aftermath left a wake of destruction, an outpouring of support from around the world, and a debt that took 46 years to repay.

As usual, author Penny Draper has compiled lots of her research notes into the back of the book – allowing for interesting discoveries and added knowledge of many things included in the story.

Couteau Books offers a Teacher’s Guide to go along with this book.

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