Day of the Cyclone: Disaster Strikes Book 7 by Penny Draper, Coteau Books, 2012. ISBN: 9781550504811. Reviewed by, John R. Clark, MLIS.
Modern teens and pre-teens have trouble imagining just how rigid and constricting life was for girls a hundred years ago. Thirteen year old Ella lives in Regina, the burgeoning capitol of Saskatchewan in Canada. Her father is a prominent banker, her mother a member of Regina’s high society, who spends her day (it would seem) telling her daughter what she CAN’T do, or bossing the servants around. She surprises her daughter on her birthday with a Kodak Brownie camera, but admonishes Ella not to intrude when taking pictures. Her father, however, encourages her to use her new gift to see what’s not so easily apparent to the eye and, as she takes risks in her picture taking, dad points out how she’s learning to be a true photographer.
Enter Billy, a new boy at her school who reacts by grabbing her camera when she takes his picture. He has good reasons to worry about having his picture taken. Billy is on the run, having escaped from a horrible slave-like existence that was completely opposite what he and his Mam back in England believed awaited him when he came to Canada.
There’s something about Billy that Ella finds refreshing and intriguing. Even though her mother has admonished her time and again about interacting with people who are lower class, Billy has an enthusiasm and love of life that really resonates with Ella.
When Billy is accused of stealing from Ella’s mother, she knows he couldn’t have done it, but she’s hard pressed to come up with a way to prove his innocence. Then a horrific tornado hits Regina, devastating much of the town. Ella is unable to find Billy, but is pressed into service, tending to the injured and getting to see a completely different side of her mother.
How she finds Billy, uses her camera skills to prove his innocence and get her mother to see her in a completely new way, make this an amazing example of historical fiction. The author did a very good job of researching the original disaster, not only blending what really happened into the story, but including numerous historical photographs to make it seem real.
This is a gem of a book by a publisher that doesn’t get nearly enough credit for the high quality books they publish. This one is worthy of sitting on any library shelf.