CM . . .
. Volume XVIII Number 1. . . .September 2, 2011
Ice Storm. (Disaster Strikes #6).
Regina, SK: Coteau Books, 2011.
198 pp., pbk., $8.95.
Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.
Review by Heidi Henkenhaf.
In the middle of the road was a majestic maple tree. It lay broken and twisted in a sea of shattered branches. Dead – killed by the ice as surely as if it had been shot. The two biggest branches in its crown had buckled under the weight of ice and fallen in opposite directions, splitting the trunk right down to the ground. The heart of the maple had been violently torn apart, baring its dark interior surrounded by the broken bones of fresh yellow wood. Alice had never really taken much notice of the tree but had the weird feeling that she wanted to cry.... She went back to bed and pulled the covers over her head. This wasn't an ordinary blackout.
The Ice Storm, by Penny Draper, blends the fictional stories of two 12-year-old cousins, Alice and Sophie, with the real dramatic events of the news making ice storm in Central and Eastern Canada in January 1998. This modern historical fiction is set in Montreal and rural Quebec. Quebec was the hardest hit by the ice storm and suffered the most extreme consequences. The freezing rain caused massive power outages leaving some people without hydro for more than three weeks.
Alice is a city girl living in Montreal. Her life revolves around her figure skating career. Yet, at 12 years of age, she is beginning to question her commitment to the sport that distances her from friends and makes her sick to her stomach before competitions. Sophie is a country girl living in rural Quebec. In many ways, the two girls' lives are worlds apart, but they share a tight friendship. When the ice storm strikes, both girls are called upon to take on adult responsibilities with courage and strength. The demands on Alice and Sophie demonstrate how the storm affected each area and created different challenges.
Natural disasters provide the circumstances to bring out the best and the worst in people.
Sophie and her family gave and received generosity to/from their neighbours and beyond. Still, they suffered temporary hardship as a result of larger scale greed. Some people hoarded generators, and others doubled the price of generators that were desperately needed by farmers to keep their stock alive. Alice was left to fend for herself as her father worked around the clock with the Quebec Hydro company. Alice had to be resourceful as the temperature in her home dropped to refrigeration levels. When the army evacuated Alice from the family home, she worked hard to make herself and others comfortable at the shelter. The heavily populated city of Montreal experienced many difficulties which were increased as a result of opportunistic people. Looters helped themselves to the contents of many of the evacuated homes. In the midst of disaster, Sophie and Alice and their families were reminded about what was really important to them.
Penny Draper is an award-winning author with five best-selling novels in the "Disaster Strikes!" series. Ice Storm is the sixth and most recent novel in the series and also deals with the most recent disaster. This captivating novel transitions smoothly back and forth between the two cousins' stories. It reveals challenging circumstances and tough realities but focuses on the goodness in humanity. The author's notes included at the novel's end reveal the severity of the ice storm disaster.
Most of the intended audience of this novel are too young to remember the "Ice Storm of 1998", but, unlike the situation with many historical fiction novels, with Ice Storm, there are many people who can clearly remember the drama this storm caused and will have stories to share. The readers of this novel may enjoy talking to their parents and others about their memories or even personal experiences of the ice storm of 1998.
Heidi Henkenhaf is an MLIS candidate at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.
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