Title: Terror at Turtle Mountain
Author: Penny Draper
Publisher: Coteau Books
Age Range: Young Adult (9+)
Time Period: 1903
Location: Frank, Alberta
“It’s just after 4:00 AM, April 29, 1903, in the coal-mining town of Frank. Nathalie Vaughan lies awake – listening for the train whistle.
Her cousin, Helena will be on that train.
Moments later, disaster strikes, bringing terror beyond anything Nattie or her neighbours ever imagined. No one is prepared. Everyone who can must lend a hand.
Thirteen-year-old Nattie has to find the strength and courage to help save her friends’ lives. Then she remembers Helena and all the people on the train.
Who will save the train?”
This is the first book of Penny Draper’s Disaster Strikes series of books. Based on true events that happened in the early 1900s, the author manages to effectively transport her readers to a small coal mining town in Alberta, which is overlooked by a mountain that the local First Nations tribes claim is part of their cultural creation stories. We’re given a glimpse of life in the era – a one room schoolhouse, small but growing community, children’s games and more, as the main character of Nathalie goes through her everyday life.
It’s in the cover of night that the face of Turtle Mountain shifts, creating a landslide that covers a huge portion of the coal mining community – burying houses and families in stone. Natalie and her mother are safe, but they have to each do their part to help bring a frantic town back together. Through this young woman’s eyes we see and feel the horror and courage that is involved when you need to see if your friends are dead or alive.
I’d never heard of this natural disaster before – although apparently it’s one of the worst landslides in Canadian history. I can hardly even imagine how unreal it would be to wake up in the wee hours before dawn to discover that half your town is under rocks and having no idea if anyone you cared about is dead or alive. I commend Ms. Draper’s writing skills to bring this experience to life for her readers.
What fascinated me the most, though, was the fact that in the back of the book, the author took the time and opportunity to share real facts, information, and photos of the whole disaster. She has links to websites that explain more details on many things. I love that it brings the story more “real” and visual.
I’m looking forward to reading and sharing more of this series.
Note: In this book, there was a slight reference to alcohol – but it was only about 1 mention, and is just in reference to one character.
Coteau Books has done a fantastic job of providing ways to bring living books to the education setting by offering novel study guides for many of their historical fiction books, including this one. Breaking the story down into sections, this book study is aimed at students in Grades 4 – 5, offering many different connections to the learning objectives of the government based curriculum.
It provides opportunities for exploring new vocabulary, thinking more in-depth about the story and events, observing character development, journal response prompts, and activities to expand on the things learned both about the event and the time period. It includes a teacher’s guide complete with printables, links, and everything else needed to dig deeper into this story.
I was given a copy of this book to read and review.