Saturday, January 12, 2013

Flood - a review

Villa, Alvaro F. 2013. Flood. North Mankato, MN: Capstone. 

(Advance Reader Copy provided by NetGalley)

If you read my blog regularly or read my monthly posts on the ALSC Blog, you'll know that my family was one of the tens of thousands affected by Hurricane Sandy.  It is for that reason, that I requested a copy of Flood for review.  I now have first-hand knowledge of the devastation caused by a hurricane, but more importantly in my area of the Jersey Shore, by flooding; I feel that I have a certain sad connection with the topic.  While I say that, I am also mindful of the fact that though thousands may be affected by the same natural disaster, no two personal disasters are the same.  There is a commonality, but yet, each town, each neighborhood, each family, each individual, must deal with a different set of difficulties.  Because of this, I approached Flood with trepidation and apprehension.  It was obviously not written in response to Superstorm Sandy, but nevertheless, it arrives at a time when people are particularly vulnerable.  To date, more than half a million disaster assistance claims have been filed with FEMA, with much of the damage caused by flooding.

Forgive me if I reveal the entire story, but this one I must follow through to the end.

Alvaro F. Villa's Flood appears to be the story of a flood more typical to the Midwest than along the nation's coastlines. In this wordless picture book, a family's modest home stands alone in the middle of a beautiful, grassy, rolling countryside, a river flowing behind. Two children and a dog play alongside a weathered picket fence.  Only the lone dark bird flying overhead hints at danger to come.  In the evening, the family spends a relaxing evening indoors.  Dawn brings the first hint of trouble as bad weather moves in.  The next days are spent in anxious discussion, preparation, and finally, evacuation. A violent and raging storm arrives, the river rises, wreaking destruction on the idyllic landscape.  In an eerie depiction of the storm's aftermath, the lone bird now sits upon the stump of a broken tree - looming large and black against the reddish hues of the dawning sky and the browns of the sandbags and silt left in the yard.  The family's muddied SUV returns.  From a distance the house can be seen, damaged but still standing.  The hopelessness of the family, the agonized tears of the young daughter are palpable as they survey the wreckage.  But of course, that is not the end.  It can never be.  No matter one's sense of hopelessness, helplessness - a start must be made. There is no other choice.  And so the rebuilding begins.  As the family paints and replants, the palette brightens and smiles return. The house, in its new coat of paint looks better than ever. It's not the same.  It will never be.  But the family is together and they have survived.

I passed this book along to my husband and children.  Of course, they are not librarians or book reviewers or educators. I asked them only because the experience is fresh in their minds.  My daughter had a keen observation.  There is a scene in which the family is spending the night in another location, having evacuated their home; the children are shown sleeping on the floor (as so many children, including mine, have recently done for days, weeks and months on end) while the parents and dog huddle in bed watching the television, presumably for news about the flood.  In a powerful use of symbolism, Villa shows their calm refuge surrounded by dark and raging flood waters - a powerful reminder of what is occurring elsewhere; but as my daughter pointed out, also easily misinterpreted by young readers who may be frightened by the water that appears to be menacingly approaching their makeshift beds.  Although beautiful and moving, and ultimately uplifting, this is not a picture book for preschoolers.  Appropriately, the publisher suggests Flood for Grades 1-3.

Is Flood  hopeful? Cautionary? Bibliotherapeutic? Empathetic? Preparatory?  I suspect Alviro F. Villa intended to offer hope.  I also suspect that much depends upon who reads it and when. 

Due on shelves February 1, 2013. 

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