July Books: Preparing for Hurricane Season

By on July 5, 2011

by Meribeth C. Shank

With the close of school for the summer comes the arrival of the storm season in South Florida. This selection of books for young people includes a variety of stories to appeal across a range of ages for the time that spans vacation. Whatever you need, choose from these books to make use of easily accessible information or to get lost in the grasp of a sweeping story.

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Cuban-American author Engle seamlessly blends her talents as journalist, poet and novelist to bring historic figures and settings to life. With her distinctive writing style, she again treats her readers to poetry in each characters’ voice, allowing them to tell their own story, while simultaneously showing how the Spanish-Indian slave boy who, used by his pirate captain master as a translator, escapes during a hurricane shipwreck to safety. And further, learning to live again on land, helping a pair of young lovers, and ultimately deciding the fate of his former pirate/owner Talavera, and Talavera’s conquistador hostage, Ojeda, this former slave creates a new life and a new name for himself.

A fictionalized account divided into six parts, it is by turns suspenseful, captivating, ill fated, and stirring as readers are led into the age of Spanish exploration and conquest, which also includes islands in the Caribbean, and the Cuban/Taíno love story of Caucubú and Naridó. Award-winning writer Engle has woven family ancestry, hurricanes, slavery, pirates, shipwrecks, forbidden love, caves, and island spirits into a poetic feast of historic fiction. An Author’s Note, Historic Note, and References are added at the end. Henry Holt, $16.99, Ages 10+


by Patti R. Zelch, illustrations by Connie McLennan.

Humans are not the only ones who prepare for a hurricane – animals, in South Florida author Zelch’s first picture book, sense and prepare for oncoming storms too. Zelch’s use of poetic language and simple repetitive phrases, brings her readers into the moments before a howling storm arrives: “Sharks explode from the shallows” of a bay, birds “huddle among the twisted roots” of mangrove islands, “rabbits race across the land,” instinctively (“They know!”) moving into their own safety range.

Award-winning illustrator McLennan’s paintings spread across double pages, ushering readers from human land preparations, into shallow ocean reef waters, then to the open sea and safety in deeper water. She uses her varied color palette to show animals on their island homes, in inland rivers and grasslands, and both offshore and along sea shorelines.

Informative back matter includes answers to questions, What is a Hurricane?, maps, the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, Preparations for the Storm, and Animal Behavior. Perfect for a home or classroom setting, this nonfiction book is an excellent choice both for before a storm or following a hurricane to assist families as they respond to these powerful tempests. Sylvan Dell, $8.95, Ages 4-9

by Paul Volponi

Hurricane Katrina arrives in New Orleans about two months after Miles moves from Chicago, where he’s been living with his remarried mother’s new family, to live with his jazz musician father. Miles believes his father’s first love is his trumpet and playing jazz, and he becomes both angry and disappointed when his father’s birthday gift to him is an African drum, instead of new cleats and a football.

In bumper-to-bumper traffic on the highway out of the city, Miles’ uncle’s car dies, and the three end up hiking to the Superdome in the rain. At this super shelter they, and another jazz musician friend they meet up with later inside, decide not to become involved in other people’s dramas. But along with a woman, her father, and her two young daughters, plus a preacher and his family, they begin to form a small community of safety and comfort, drawing together in the sharing of music as an antidote to loss and grief.

This becomes even more necessary when Miles meets up with a couple of boys from his new high school football team. Initially he’s pleased because they are both seniors, and he thinks he’ll be part of the social chain in school if he hangs out with these guys – until they bully themselves into the food line and later, want protection money from the people in Miles’ section.

Headlined by verses, both known and new, of the jazz spiritual often characteristically used as a funeral march in New Orleans, each of the twelve chapters (plus a prologue and an epilogue) is also captioned by a date and time, and chronicles the painful experiences of three days in the before and after of Hurricane Katrina. In this short but gripping story of nightmarish tragedies and profound hope, Volponi’s passionate writing is a careful crafting of contrasts — gritty language and sensitive interactions — in this tale of a desperate time, as a son and his father discover each other in new ways and begin to feel like a family. Viking, $15.99, Ages 11-14

Additional titles to consider:

Hurricanes!

by Gail Gibbons

Discover how hurricanes form, how to prepare when you learn a hurricane is coming, what kinds of damage results, and how information is gathered to forecast and track hurricanes. Brief descriptions of several famous historic hurricanes, including Hurricane Andrew (1992), and Hurricane Katrina (2005) are included. (Nonfiction) Holiday House, $17.95, Ages 7-9


Hurricane Wolf

by Diane Paterson

Noah learns about and helps prepare for approaching Hurricane Anna, which he calls a hurricane wolf, because it’s scary like a big bad wolf trying to blow down houses. The family plots the hurricane’s course on a map, while it batters the house, and Noah asks questions: “Can it see us?” he whispers when it gets suddenly quiet; his mom explains the silence as the eye, the center of the storm. Information about hurricanes is included at the end as a “book” Noah makes with help from his mom: the Saffir-Simpson Scale, a sample Hurricane Plan, Hurricane Kit, and what to do After the Storm. (Fiction) Albert Whitman, $16.99, Ages 5-8


Ellie Ever

by Nancy Ruth Patterson, illustrations by Patty Weise.

After a hurricane in which nine-year-old Ellie and her mother lose her father, her beloved Saint Bernard, Pandy, their house and all their possessions, they move to Virginia for her mother to complete a farrier’s apprenticeship at a mansion, which also houses stables for retired horses. Ellie is accepted into Twin Creeks Preparatory School and discovers the other girls in her fourth grade class think she’s a princess because she lives at the mansion. This tender, restrained story shows a family’s steady recovery from the huge losses of a big storm. (Fiction) Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $15.99, Ages 7-10

Meribeth C. Shank is a Media Specialist at Miami Country Day School, an independent school in Miami Shores, Florida, she teaches classes on Writing Books for Young People, and earned her MFA in Writing from Vermont College.

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