Book Review: Hurricane

Rating: ★★★★☆

Hurricane opens with a family preparing for an oncoming storm.  Batteries, grocery bags, and cat food lie on the kitchen counter, rain streams down the windowpanes, and two wide-eyed brothers worry over their missing cat.  Then, peering through the strips of tape laced over the storm door, they quickly bring him in as debris swirls in the high winds.  The family settles into their creaking house, and when the lights go out they gather around the fireplace for supper, while the cat curls in the darkness underneath a chair.  Then the children go to bed, carrying a hurricane lamp.  They talk about weather planes and how many miles birds might be blown in the wind.

In the morning, the boys discover that one of their two elm trees has fallen into the neighbor’s yard, and for several days their imagination transforms the tree into a jungle safari, a sailing vessel, and a spaceship.   They settle into the fallen tree as a favorite haunt, and are very disappointed when their neighbor has it removed.  But their hopes are revived when another storm starts brewing, and they calculate that if the other elm falls it is likely to land in their own yard.

Throughout the story is a deep sense of serenity: the tape on the storm door forms two silly faces, the children lounge comfortably indoors while gazing at the storm outside, and Mom calmly wraps protective arms around the younger brother while Dad tends the fire.  The warmth of the indoor scenes contrasts sharply against the swirling darkness outside. Implicit in this physical security is the certainty that this stable family provides safety in the face of very powerful weather.  In the conclusion, the brothers’ gleeful anticipation that the second tree may fall helps reinterpret the potentially frightening experience of a hurricane.

In the make-believe scenes we begin to see the genius of Wiesner’s artistic fantasies which would later win him five Caldecott awards.  The same cat who aggrievedly wait outside the taped-up storm door and accompanies the boys on all their imaginative adventures is seen at the end of the story gazing through the rain-streaming window, behind which large fish appear to be swimming.  Observant readers will notice that this concept is repeated with fish-shaped clouds in the fantasy Sector 7, and the same cat appears in the later book.

With its excellent artwork, accurate portrayal of a tropical storm, depiction of a strong family, and emphasis on healthy imaginative play, this is a fine read-aloud choice for almost any elementary reader.

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Publication Information: Wiesner, David. Hurricane. Sandpiper. 1992. ISBN: 0395629748.
Categories: 4 Stars, Age 04-08, Honey For a Child's Heart
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Posted on August 27, 2011

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