Resource Links Review - Ice Storm

Reviewed by: Louise Sidley

It's the Storm of the Century and the lives of two cousins, Alice and Sophie, are turned upside-down. English-speaking Alice - a blossoming competitive ice skater - lives in Montreal with her father. French-speaking Sophie lives on a dairy farm with her parents and younger brother. Three years earlier, with the passing of Alice's mother, the two girls formed a close bond, which they maintain through e-mails, phoning, and Alice's visits to the farm. The novel opens with Alice's regimented routine at the arena and she describes her discontent with always having to skate her frustration with her disappointing results at competitions. The next chapter gives a glimpse of Sophie's life on the farm and her strange and irritating younger brother, Sebastien. 

Then the ice storm of January 1998 hits. Alice's father, a hydro-Quebec linesman, is called to work on the fallen lines. The storm is worse than predicted and when he doesn't return home, Alice must survive in a cold dark house. When a tree falls through her neighbour's roof, Alice needs to think about more than herself and rescue her grouchy elderly neighbour. The situation becomes dire when Alice learns the neighbour is diabetic and is in need of insulin. Meanwhile, Sophie's father, on his way to bring Alice to the farm, is turned away from the city because of bridge closures. When the situation becomes too dangerous, Alice and her neighbour are moved to a shelter and no one knows where Alice has gone. 

Back at the farm, each day of ice and freezing temperatures poses more hardship. The whole family and the surrounding community work from dawn to dusk caring for their animals. Despite Sophie and Sebastien taking on extra duties and responsibilities, cows are dying. Worst of all, Sophie's favourite place on the farm, the sugar bush, is destroyed.

In coping with the tragedy, both girls are on a personal journey. Alice finds her voice to tell her dad and coach that she doesn't want to skate competitively any more and Sophie learns that she is strong and capable and her brother is not so strange after all.

Draper does not shy away from the cruel forces at work. There is looting and vandalism; death and destruction. But, there is also goodness to be found; the community spirit from the farmers; the help from the American soldiers; and the camaraderie and friendship found at the shelter Though it would have been nice to have the girls in more scenes together, the contrast between the effect of the storm on the urban and rural landscapes is engaging. 

The Author's notes provide details pertaining to the scope of the disaster and relief; dairy farming; maple syrup; and Quebec storytelling traditions.

Recommended for school and public libraries for independent reading. Another good addition to the Disaster Canada Series. 

Thematic Links: Disaster; Survival; Severe Weather; Ice Skating; Community Spirit; Quebec Storytelling; Dairy Farming; Maple Syrup; Cousins

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