Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Disaster Days

Behrens, Rebecca. The Disaster Days
October 1st 2019 by Sourcebooks Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Hannah doesn't understand why her parents are SO overprotective, even though she occasionally has a hard time dealing with her asthma. She lives on Pelling, a small island outside of Seattle, and is glad that she has a chance to babysit for one of the few neighboring families. Usually, it's just for a short time while Ms. Matlock runs to the store, but when there is a gallery show, she gets to watch Oscar and Zoe for a little longer. Her mother will be home a little later in case she runs into problems, so she's looking forward to a little independence. She is also glad to have something to take her mind off her fight with her best friend, Neha. Ever since Hannah quit soccer because of her asthma, the two have grown apart, and when Neha doesn't want to work with Hannah on a project, the two have a text scuffle. All of those things become unimportant, however, when there is an earthquake! All three children (Zoe is just a couple of years younger than Hannah; 4th graders are pretty helpful) are worried, but they manage to ride out the quake, assess the damage, and think through what they need to do. When Hannah's cell phone stops working and Ms. Matlock does not come home, she tells the children that she is on her way to make sure they don't panic. Zoe is not happy the next day, but things slowly go from bad to worse. There are aftershocks and other small quakes that damage the house further and cause the refrigerator to topple. Hannah smells gas and knows that they have to leave the house, so they stay on the porch and then set up a tent when even that seems dangerous. They have a wind up radio and listen to the local news, but none of it is good. Hannah worries that her father, an architect working on a project on the coast, might have been killed, and she knows it will be some time before anyone gets back to the island. When food is low and the children's injuries become worse (Zoe gets glass in her arm and Oscar breaks his leg), Hannah decides they should make their way to her house, 3/4 of a mile away, and closer to the ferry. When her house is in even worse shape and circumstances seem dire, the three set out for the ferry. Will they be able to get help in time?
Strengths: Children saving the day alone without killing off any parents! Hooray! I loved that Hannah was irritated with her mother for hovering, but soon understood what it is like to be responsible for others. Having her be in 7th grade and having taken a babysitting course, and having her charges be in 4th and 2nd grade (or so-- e copies are hard to go back and scan) is perfect-- I babysat children that age from 5 p.m. to 2 p.m. for a neighbor in the summer, and certainly felt like I could have dealt with an earthquake! Yes, it's horrible, but it's also sort of exciting. I'm not normally a fan of flashbacks, but the first chapter of this was so suspenseful. The children consulting an encyclopedia for information and remembering some of their lessons on what gas smells like, etc. was brilliant. Really, really enjoyed this!
Weaknesses: I am usually a fan of inserting friend drama into every middle grade novel, but there were so many details about survival in this book that the subplot with Neha wasn't really necessary. It's not bad; just distracted me from the awesome tale of survival.
What I really think: Loved this one, and needed some fresh survival tales. This will be heavily used and I'm looking forward to giving it to students! Also, I apparently need to have a Go Bag in my closet.

Blue Liz Claibourne slacks I know I wore to London in 2005, Lands End gingham shirt, cotton argyle vest. Evil bunny pin! When I worked at Lazarus thirty odd years ago, we were required to wear three pieces on the floor. A skirt and blouse were not enough; we had to add a jacket, vest, sweater, or scarf in order to look professional. Of course, most of us just kept a navy blazer in the break room and threw it on with everything. This has really stuck with me, though!

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