________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 9 . . . . December 22, 2006


Extreme Canadian Weather: Freakish Storm and Sudden Disasters. (Amazing Stories Junior Edition). 

Joan Dixon.
Canmore, AB: Altitude Publishing (Distributed by Saunders Book Company), 2006.
96 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-55439-704-4.
Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.
Review by Reece Steinberg.
***½ /4 


Cliff and Marion Sherman lived a few hundred metres from the Humber River. Marion was six months pregnant. With them lived their two-year-old toddler, two teenagers and 70-year-old grandfather. The night of October 15, Marion heard a strange noise. She looked out their bedroom window. She saw a 2.5-metre wall of water coming straight at the farmhouse."   

The Red was already high in Winnipeg. Boats could not pass under the bridges in downtown Winnipeg. Bitter winds made whitecaps. They smashed high against the dikes. A huge inland sea of 2000 square kilometres strangled the city on two sides. Dikes were leaking. Everyone worked hard to stop the flood. There were 650,000 people in Winnipeg. Six thousand had already had to leave. 

Then, it was just like in 1950. In the midst of the worst of it, it snowed. 


Extreme Canadian Weather is a captivating history of disastrous weather in Canada. The book mixes personal stories of families and communities who have struggled against weather with information on the types of extreme weather that can happen in different parts of Canada. Extreme Canadian Weather includes stories from The Atlantic/Maritime region, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, the prairies and British Columbia. 

     Extreme Canadian Weather describes weather events as far back as the 1700s as well as disasters that many young readers may remember, including the 2003 forest fires in British Columbia. The personal perspective increases the drama of the events while the succinct chapters manage to include a lot of information on weather and Canadian history. 

     This book begins with a map of Canada, complete with a legend and symbols for each of the nine different types of weather disasters it discusses- ice storms, dust bowls, blizzards, Wreckhouse winds, Red River floods, hurricanes, hail and firestorms. This provides a clear representation from the very first page of the quantity and diversity of natural disasters in Canada. In addition to the many different types of weather, this book does an excellent job of showing the different situations in which the extreme weather occurs, and how these situations came about. It explains how people helped to bring about the events that caused the firestorms of British Columbia and the dust bowls of Saskatchewan. Extreme Canadian Weather describes the natural mechanisms that determine whether hail the size of golf balls will fall from the sky and how Alberta insurance companies have urged the government to manipulate the hailstorms. The book presents a sufficient explanation for why each catastrophe happened without making the book overly technical or dry. 

     Readers will be able to use Extreme Canadian Weather as a source of information for both history and science classes, but it will also serve as an enjoyable read. The stories inside come from teenagers and retirees, from urban and from rural dwellers. Striking characters include the Newfoundland Railway's Lockie MacDougall, the Gale-Sniffer Extraordinaire, also known as the human wind gauge. Readers learn how over his 35-year career with the railway, Lockie helped to prevent serious rail accidents on the narrow-gauge rail by "smelling" the winds. The book showcases the jobs of meteorologists, firefighters and other emergency response teams, and discusses disaster planning in current and historical times. 

     Most interestingly, the author, who has a master's degree in Canadian Studies, has managed to choose a topic unique to Canada and its large and varied environments. This book will appeal to fans of nonfiction who are driven to understand how things work, as well as readers who enjoy feeling personal connections with the people they encounters in books. 

Highly Recommended.

Reece Steinberg, a librarian at Vancouver Public Library, currently works in the Business & Science, and Virtual Reference divisions. 

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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