________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 16. . . .December 18, 2009


A Terrible Roar of Water. (Disaster Strikes, #5).

Penny Draper.
Regina, SK: Coteau, 2009.
159 pp., pbk., $8.95.
ISBN 978-1-55050-414-9.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Jeannine Stickle.

*** /4



“Oui,” said Old Antoine as he labouriously got to his feet. “The tidal wave next. That’s what.” Old Antoine dusted off his trousers.

“What did you hear?” asked Isadore curiously. “Rien. Nothing.”

Isadore frowned.

“Écoutez,” said the old man. “Not what I hear, what I feel. Je suis vieux; I been around lot of years and before my back get crooked I been lot of places. Places with the tidal wave. The wave – vibration – go through my ear to my head. Feel it before; feel it now. Écoutez Old Antoine.”

The assembled grown-ups looked at one another in embarrassment. Old Antoine got such funny ideas sometimes. “Old Antoine,” said one of the old-timers in the crowd kindly. “Just look at the harbour. It’s flat as a mirror. No waves, no wind, no weather. We won’t be getting any waves today.”

“Si vous aimez. Believe what you like,” said Old Antoine firmly. “Moi – I go to the high ground.”

Old Antoine turned on his heel and stalked away. The crowd began to murmur. “Do you think he’s right?” asked somebody. “Should I take my children to the high meadow?”

Another voice answered, “Don’t give it another thought. You know Old Antoine; he’s such a worrier. A day doesn’t go by that he doesn’t predict some disaster or another. Sure, they get tidal waves in some places, but we ain’t never had one here. Not to worry. Go home everybody, make your dinners and put your little ones to bed. It’s all over now.”

Murphy nodded to his friends as they split up to go their separate ways. He wasn’t convinced. What was a tidal wave anyway? Was it the sea shaking? Was Albert right – were ghosts to blame?

Good-natured 12-year-old Murphy faces disaster with bravery in this endearing and well-researched historical novel set in Newfoundland in 1929. Interesting and highly-readable, the fifth book in Penny Draper’s “Disaster Strikes!” series tells the story of the tsunami that hit the Burin Peninsula on November 18th, 1929, and the experience of the community of the outport where Murphy lives in dealing with the disaster and its aftermath. The entire community, including Murphy, bands together to deal with their great losses, including the loss of some of their community members. Though they eventually receive aid and the story ends on a note of hope of future improvement, the community is still dealing with the aftermath at the end of the novel.

     The story is rich with historical and cultural details about life in the outport on the peninsula, but character development is less emphasized. Murphy is a highly likeable character who is more complex than others, but he still does not grow or change throughout the story and comes across as mostly a vehicle for relating the historical events. However, overall the book is colourful, well-written, and portrays the outport in a carefully detailed way that fans of history and readers who enjoy learning about different cultures will love. It also portrays the events of the tsunami honestly, not shying away from explaining the dangers and the losses that the community members experience. The “Author’s Note” at the end of the book is an invaluable supplement that explains the true historical events portrayed in the story.

     The author, Penny Draper, is a professional storyteller and author of the “Disaster Strikes!” series. The first book in the series, Terror at Turtle Mountain, was a finalist for the Silver Birch Young Readers’ Choice Award, the Diamond Willow Award, the Geoffrey Bison Award for Historical Fiction for Young People, the Book of the Year for the ForeWard Magazine Awards. The second novel, Peril at Pier Nine, was nominated for a Silver Birch Young Readers’ Choice Award, and the forth book in the series, Graveyard of the Sea, won a Bolen Book Prize and was a Gold Medalist in the Moonbeam Children’s Awards.

     A Terrible Roar of Water is recommended for fans of historical fiction, such as those readers who enjoy the “Dear Canada” series, and for purchase in public and school library collections where historical fiction is popular.


Jeannine Stickle is a Library and Information Studies student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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