CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 6 . . . .November 9, 2007
Safe as Houses.
Toronto, ON: Doubleday Canada, 2007.
151 pp., pbk., $14.95.
Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.
Review by Maha Kumaran.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
The Van Dyke house began to turn again. The front of the house, the leading edge, was caught in the current while the trailing section was still sitting against the Watson house. Slowly it began to spin. Still spinning, the house moved right alongside with us. The three figures, father and two children, were frozen in the glare of the spotlight. They were so close that I felt I could reach out and touch them, so close that I could talk to them. But even if my words could have been heard above the roar of the river what would I have said to them? Hello. I'm sorry. I wish I could help. Goodbye. Goodbye.
This fast-paced, well written story is based on a real event that occurred in Canada on October 15, 1954, that claimed lives and left many homeless. It is about Hurricane Hazel that caused torrential rain and heavy flooding.
The story is set in Weston, Ontario where Elizabeth, a student from grade 8, is picking up Suzie (grade 2) and her brother David (grade 6) from school. David believes he doesn't need a baby sitter and is not shy to show his feelings towards Elizabeth. On this particular evening, Elizabeth doesn't want to pick a fight with him. They walk home from school in pouring rain past Elizabeth's house, across River Humbley, a scary bridge to cross today with choppy water flowing under it.
Mrs. McBride, the children's mother, calls Elizabeth to let her know they are coming home as soon as they can. But they never do. Elizabeth's mother is concerned for her but is also happy that Lizzie is there with the children and convinces her that they are "safe as houses." Everything seems fine for sometime but then phones go dead and power goes off. Lizzie doesn't feel safe as a house anymore as she sees the water level rising and flowing into their back and front yard with the neighbours' truck and dead animals floating in it. Later during the night, she finds water inside the house which rises quickly up to the roof.
As the disaster outside rages, Lizzie and David learn to work together. Lizzie learns that most of David's behavior is due to the fact that he has had to move into a new neighbourhood from Toronto, leaving behind everything he has ever known. David learns that Lizzie, a girl, can be resourceful and courageous. Will this team be able to figure a way out of their flooded house? Is it safe to stay on the roof top after having just witnessed their neighbours' house with people in it uprooted and swept away by the flood? Will they be able to save little Suzie who might not be able to brave the turbulent floods? Would someone have to be sacrificed so others may survive?
Maha Kumaran is a Virtual Reference Librarian in Saskatoon, SK.
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