By: Candice Ransom
Illustrated by: Paul Tong
Publisher: Millbrook Press
Publication Date: January 2011
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 2011
Robert was a sickly boy and his parents thought that “the sea air would make him healthy,” so they sent him to live with his Aunt Maudie who lived on Galveston Island, Texas. All the other boys poked fun of him because she babied him so and refused to let him go with her down to the beach. One of the boys exclaimed, “I heard the waves are huge.” A look of disappointment came over Robert’s face, but he was determined to see the churning waters for himself and headed for the shore. Most of the people appeared to be unconcerned, but when the bathhouses were “smashed into sticks,” and the waters began to rise, people began to leave. When Robert returned home, his aunt had prepared a basket and was in a hurry to take shelter in the home of a neighbor.
The water began to rush in and unusual objects were seen as they whirled in the water. “Look,” Robert cried as he saw that “boards were covered with hundreds of tiny frogs.” They rushed into the Russell home, a home that began to crowd with people. Suddenly the waters began rushing in and the cry went out for everyone to rush upstairs. “The water will never reach the second floor,” shouted Mr. Russell, but the terror was just beginning as the house began to move. Robert was “knocked into the bathtub” as the house started to fall apart. Everything was a blur and “He glimpsed a mountain of water, rooftops, buggies, furniture, and trolley-car tracks.” Would Robert be able to escape the madness of the storm? Was he even going to survive in the water?
Although this story is fictionalized, it is based on the hurricane that struck Galveston, Texas on September 8, 1900. The tale is fast paced, exciting, and will hold the attention of even the most reluctant reader. The artwork, which graces most of the pages, meshes perfectly with the story and is almost an equal partner in replaying the urgency of the night. In the “Author’s Note” in the front of the book there is a brief, but interesting historical overview that discusses the approaching storm, including the fact that a ship’s captain, who saw the storm, “didn’t think it looked serious.” In the back of the book there is additional information about the result of the storm’s devastation, and additional books and websites that young people may be interested in exploring.
Quill says: This is an exciting reenactment of the survival of Robert, a boy struggling in the waters of Galveston during the hurricane.