I Survived: The Wellington Avalanche, 1910 by Lauren Tarshis

I Survived the Wellington Avalanche, 1910

Lauren Tarshis, Author

Scott Dawson, Illustrator

Scholastic, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Sep. 6, 2022

Pages: 144

Suitable for ages: 8-12 (reading level Grade 4)

Themes: Avalanche, Trains, Survival, Wellington, Orphans, Gangsters, Theft

Publisher’s Synopsis:

The Wellington snow slide of 1910 was―and still is―the deadliest avalanche in America’s history. 

The snow is coming down faster than train crews can clear the tracks, piling up in drifts 20 feet high. In a tiny town in the Cascade Mountains, Janie Pryor — and the other passengers trapped on the Seattle Express train – wait for the horrific blizzard to end.

One day passes, then two. three…six days. Secretly, Janie doesn’t mind being stuck on the mountain. She’s safe from the brutal gangsters chasing after her. And so far, nobody on the train knows about the stolen jewels Janie has sewn in a hidden pocket of her coat. And for the first time since her parents death, she’s enjoying sleeping in a warm bed and eating food.

At the Wellington train depot in the Cascade Mountains  two trains sat stranded, blocked in by snow slides to the east and west. Some male passengers brave the storm to make the treacherous hike off the mountain to a town called Scenic. They send word for no one to follow, it’s too dangerous. Many passengers have no choice but to wait out the storm, because of age or they have children.

Then, just after midnight on March 1,the snow turns to rain and  a lightning storm strikes the mountain, sending a ten-foot-high wave of snow barreling down the mountain. The trains tumbled 150 feet. 96 people are dead. Janie sees it coming an runs, but is buried in a ferocious wave of snow, giant rocks and train parts. Can she make it out alive?

The Wellington avalanche forever changed railroad engineering. 

Why I like this book/series:

I Survived: The Wellington Avalanche, 1910, is a  gripping survival story that will thrill readers with its heart-pounding action.  Tarshis’s snappy text moves along at quick pace, encouraging her audience to keep reading. Scott Dawson’s expressive illustrations add to the tension of the story. Just read the opening paragraph: 

RRRRRRRooooooor! The earsplitting explosion shook the ground. Eleven-year–old Janie Pryor swung her head around and stared in horror. The mountain above her seemed to have shattered apart. A massive wave of icy snow was crashing down. An avalanche!” 

This book is a excellent way to teach young readers about different events in history, narrated by someone their own age. I am impressed with the amount of research that goes into this piece of historical fiction. Readers will learn about how avalanches form, how poorly the railway system was at the turn of the century, the placement of tracks too close to cliffs and the inability to track weather conditions. They will also learn about how this disaster led to railway changes.

Janie’s story represents another interesting part of history — the plight of the thousands of children who are orphans. Janie’s parents are killed in an accident and she is on her own. Many end up in deplorable orphanages, work houses, begging on the streets, stealing, and sleeping in alleys. Janie is snagged to work for criminals, like Ray Malvo, who force her to deliver stolen jewels by train and watch her every move. Her storyline is interesting in the book and kids will cheer for her.

What they won’t learn in this story is survival techniques. Perhaps there weren’t techniques, like today. Janie only hears the mountain explode and runs as fast as she can to save her life before she is buried in snow, ice and debris.  However, the author does use a technique in her story to show how Janie finds the will to live until she is rescued.  

This the 22nd book in the ” I Survived” middle grade series. The reading level is set at fourth grade. So it is certainly the perfect series to hand to a reluctant readers. 

Make sure you check out the backmatter, which include many photographs of the real-life places that inspired Janie’s story. Readers will get to see inside the trains, newspapers articles. photographs of the crash sites and information about from the author about writing the story.

Lauren Tarshis’s New York Times bestselling I Survived series tells stories of young people and their resilience and strength in the midst of unimaginable disasters and times of turmoil. Lauren has brought her signature warmth and exhaustive research to topics such as the battle of D-Day, the American Revolution, Hurricane Katrina, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Shark Attacks, the California Wildfires, the Attacks on September 11, 2001 and other world events. She lives in Connecticut with her family, and can be found online at laurentarshis.com.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Make sure you check out the many links to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a purchased copy.

 

Northbound: A Train Ride Out of Segregation by Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein — Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Today is Multicultural Children’s Book Day – Jan. 29, 2021

Official hashtag: #ReadYourWorld 

 Learn more about this special day at the end of my review.

Northbound: A Train Ride Out of Segregation

Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein, Authors

James E. Ransome, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Historical Fiction, Oct. 13, 2020

Suitable for ages: 6-9

Themes: Train Ride, African Americans, Segregation, Friendship

Opening: “Trains! The clicket-clack of the wheels and the low song of the whistles. As the huge engines rushed by our farm, Granddaddy and I always stopped our work to watch and to dream of climbing on board a powerful train and traveling to distant, strange places.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Michael loves watching the trains as they rush by his Alabama farm on their way to far-off places. And today, Michael’s dream is coming true: he’s taking his first train journey to visit cousins in Ohio!

When Michael and his grandmother board the train, the conductor directs them to the “colored only” section. But when the train pulls out of Atlanta, the signs come down, and a boy runs up to Michael, inviting him to explore. The two new friends happily scour the train — until the conductor calls out “Chattanooga,” the sign go back up, and Michael is abruptly ushered to the “colored section” for the rest of the ride.

How come Michael can go as he pleases in some states, but has to sit in segregated sections in others? How could the rules be so changeable from state to state — and so unfair?

Based on author Michael S. Bandy’s own recollections of taking the train as a boy during the segregation era, this story of a child’s magical first train trip is intercut with a sense of baffling injustice, offering both a hopeful tale of friendship and a window into a dark period of history that still resonates today.

Why I like this book:

Michael Bandy and Eric Stein’s story captures the joy of a boy’s first train ride from Alabama to Ohio during the segregation era of the 1960s. When Michael and his grandmother board the train they are directed to the “colored only” car.  Imagine his confusion when the train leaves the station and the conductor removes the signs as the train moves different states. He’s free to move around.

It’s also a story about the innocence of childhood, when a boy, Bobby Ray, enters Michael’s train car and invites him to explore the train together. They discover a dining car and an area with beds for night travel.  They also enjoy playing with little green army men, sharing scars on their limbs and drawing pictures. Bobby Rae draws something very special for Michael and hands it to him, just before they reach Chattanooga and the conductor puts the signs back up and ushers Michael back to his seat. Such a beautiful story about how friendship can transcend unfair laws.

This is a sensitive and perfect book to share with young children about race relations in our country. It is an excellent introduction to segregation. James E. Ransome’s beautiful watercolor illustrations capture the magic of Michael’s first train ride, with beautiful landscapes of the countryside and cities and large close-up pictures of the boys interacting.

Resources: There is an Author’s Note at the end of the book that addresses the laws that created this unjust travel condition, beginning in 1887 with the Interstate Commerce Act. This book is an excellent discussion book for families and deserves a place in every school library.

Michael S. Bandy is the coauthor, with Eric Stein, of White Water, and Granddaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box. White Water was adapted into an award-winning screenplay that was developed into a film. Stein was also the cowriter and coproducer of the film. Northbound: A Train Ride Out of Segregation is the third book in this series. Bandy lives in Los Angeles and Stein lives in Sherman Oaks, California.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.
*Free review copy provided by Candlewick Press in exchange for a review.
Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2021 (1/29/21) is in its 8th year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those book into the hands of young readers and educators.

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