Ice Storm by Penny Draper (Red Cedar Club 2012)

In 1998 an ice storm hit the province of Quebec and other parts of Eastern Canada. Montreal, a city of 3 ½ million people was extremely hard hit. This is the story of Sophie and Alice, cousins and close friends who lived in different parts of the province. Told from the points of view of the two girls, we see how this disaster slowly escalated from a minor inconvenience to a near catastrophe. Alice lived in Montreal with her father who worked for Hydro Quebec. Sophie lived in rural Quebec on a dairy farm with her brother, mother and father. Against the backdrop of the storm, Alice and Sophie have to deal with details of their own lives.

Alice loved to skate and train for hours each day before and after school. In spite of this, competitions were a nightmare for her. When she was in front of a crowd she seemed unable to do anything right. When the storm hit, her father was occupied trying to get the power grid running and left Alice alone at home. At first she was comfortable, but as the storm progressed, all bridges to Montreal were shut down. Her uncle was unable to pick her up and bring her to the farm as planned, but her father was unaware of this. As the freezing rain continued and became more treacherous, trees in her neighborhood split, power lines collapsed and Alice was truly abandoned. She rescued a cranky older neighbor when a tree collapsed onto her house and they ended up in a shelter together. This doesn’t mean that things got better.

Before the storm Sophie’s most difficult challenge was dealing with her brilliant and very weird younger brother. She bottled her feelings up deep inside and was unable to say what she wanted.  Because her parents had the foresight to purchase a generator, it seemed at first that Sophie’s family and farm animals would be fine. Then the generator failed and they were forced to watch helplessly as their farm animals began to die.

Ultimately this is a story about how disaster brings out the best and worst in humankind. It shows us how ordinary individuals not only cope; they grow and become stronger under these kinds of challenging situations.

This is the kind of book that makes learning history a pleasure.