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Author: Hilary Hyland

Illustrator: Paul Bachem

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Publisher: Peachtree Publishers,

Material: paperback

Summary: Winters in Newfoundland are always cold and storms aren't uncommon, but this year the dead of winter is coming early! It is December 10, 1919, and the SS Ethie is taking holiday passengers to St. John's Harbor. The weather instruments suggest a storm is coming, but the Captain believes they can outrun it. He's wrong. The Captain and crew do their best, but Mother Nature is much stronger, and the lifeboats are turned into toothpicks. Fishing families watching from shore are desperate to help, but the seas are too rough. A young girl sends her dog Skipper out to catch a rope in the hopes they can bring everyone safely to shore. This is an historical fiction novel about the SS Ethie, which crashed in St. John's Harbor, Newfoundland in 1919.

Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, independent reading, reluctant reader, read aloud book

Recommended Age: read together: 8 to 10; read yourself: 9 to 12

Interest Level: 9 to 12

Reading Level: 3.9

Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.

Adult Reader Reaction: This is a fascinating story, and the author does a wonderful job conveying the suspense and the anxiety of all of the players, from the captain and his crew, to Colleen Reilly and her parents. By opening the story with the daily routine of the Reilly family, she sets a great stage for understanding life in this far eastern province. The illustrations are an excellent complement to the story, and the collection of factual details at the back offer "the rest of the story."

Pros: Lots of action and suspense fill this story based on a true event. It is a perfect book for encouraging research. Large type, short chapters, illustrations, and the writing style make this an exceptional choice for dormant or struggling readers.

Cons: None.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. This is an outstanding story and perfect for engaging readers, particularly when read aloud.


Educational Themes: There are lots of things you can do with this book. The author talks about historical research and looking at newspapers. You can use them as the start of your own research or for talking about primary sources. The characters themselves are secondary to the story, so they don't offer much by the way of character study. That said, there is enough there to talk about community life (rural living, economics, etc.)

Notes: The author donated a copy of this book to the Reading Tub. This is an unsolicited donation.

Literary Categories: Fiction - historical fiction, middle grade

Date(s) Reviewed: October 2009

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