Saturday, August 14, 2004

The 1900 Galveston Hurricane

Stolen by the Sea by Anna Myers, 2002
Galveston's Summer of the Storm, by Julie Lake, 2003

As the news reports on Hurricane Charley come in it is interesting to look at children's books about another hurricane. On September 8, 1900 a devastating storm hit Galveston Texas. It remains the worst national disaster in the history of the United States. Translating the emotions of events such as these into a novel for children is challenging.

Maggie McKenna is an only child. She is jealous of the new brother or sister about to be born to her family. She also resents the attention and friendship her father gives an orphan boy named Felipe. In Stolen by the Sea by Anna Myers, Maggie is left at home in Galveston while her parents visit the doctor in Houston. The storm begins and Maggie watches the water rise.
Amazed, she realized the water was up to the first step. Thank heavens Papa had built the house up high. The water would never reach the house. Maggie was sure of that, but she still felt afraid. She was alone here with Myra, alone and cut off from the rest of the world. Beside her Bonnie whined, and Maggie patted the dog's head. "We're together. We'll be all right, won't we girl?"
Maggie must find the strength and will to survive as she and Felipe work together to live through the storm.

In Galveston's Summer of the Storm, by Julie Lake, Abby Kate must extend a visit with her grandmother in Galveston when word reaches them that her brother Will, at home in Austin, has diphtheria. She feels odd to still be on the island so late in the season. When the storm begins the idea of spray so high it "is crashing up way above the street car trestle" is exciting. She begs permission to go down to the beach to see the waves.
...she was amazed at the number of people gathered to watch the waves. She felt like she was at some strange sort of party. With the island already flooding from high water, it was hard to tell where the beach ended and the ocean began. A few brave souls waded out in the wild surf and got soaked All around them, men and women pointed and shouted. No one had ever seen the waves so high.
Like many victims that day, Abby Kate must cling to prayer and a makeshift raft in order to live through the nightmare. Julie Lake continues the narrative through the storm's aftermath. Readers will have a good idea of how the citizens of Galveston regrouped to heal their city and go on.

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