Quill & Quire Review - Day of the Cyclone

Quill & Quire
Reviewed by: Kate Watson

Penny Draper's latest installment in the highly entertaining and educational Disaster Strikes! series tells the story of the deadliest tornado in Canadian history, which killed 28 people and left more than 2,500 homeless when it swept through Regina on June 30, 1912.The book's heroine is 12-year-old Ella Barclay, the privileged daughter of a banker. Ella is spirited and curious, often chafing at the confines of her social status. With the gift of a Kodak Bownie camera, she is afforded more freedom to explore her city and encouraged to see the world in a different way. Archival photographs - ostensibly snapped by Ella - are peppered throughout the novel, providing readers with a sense of historic Regina before and after the tornado, and adding a nice graphic element to the narrative. The chapters describing the tornado (which doesn't hit until midway through the book) and its after-effects are thrilling, terrifying, and often heartbreaking. But to bill the book as a simple disaster story is to sell it short. Ella is an engaging character whose guilelessness is an effective means of teaching readers about issues of the time. Draper cleverly uses the girl's relationships to highlight the burgeoning push by women for social reform and the right to vote, as well as the role of British Home Children in the settlement of Canada's West. Ella's growing awareness of class disparity and poverty is also woven expertly through the story. Draper's exciting coming-of-age story, featuring a relatable protagonist and set against the background of an historic moment in danger of fading from consciousness, strikes the perfect balance between enthralling and informative.

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