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Children's Literature Reviews
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by Tom Bodett.
Contributor biographical information
Publisher description
Sample text
New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, c1999.
192 p. ; 22 cm.


In their father's absence, thirteen-year-old September and her younger brother Ivan disobey his orders by taking the boat out on their Alaska bay, where they are caught in a terrifying storm called a williwaw.

Best Books:

Best Children's Books of the Year, 2000 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States

State and Provincial Reading Lists:

Battle of the Books, 2010-2011 ; Nominee; Elementary; New Mexico
Golden Sower Award, 2001-2002 ; Nominee; Grades 4-6; Nebraska
Great Stone Face Award, 2001-2002 ; Nominee; New Hampshire
Maud Hart Lovelace Book Award, 2001-2002 ; Nominee; Minnesota
MRA Reader's Choice Award, 2001 ; Nominee; Grades 4 - 5; Michigan
Nutmeg Children's Book Award, 2003 ; Nominee; Connecticut
Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award, 2003 ; Nominee; Illinois
Sunshine State Young Reader's Award, 2002-2003 ; Nominee; Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8; Florida

Reading Measurement Programs:

Accelerated Reader" "
Interest Level Upper Grade" "
Book Level 5.7" "
Accelerated Reader Points 7" "
Accelerated Vocabulary" "

Lexile, MetaMetrics, Inc.
Lexile Measure 910

Reading Counts-Scholastic
Interest Level 6-8
Reading Level 6
Title Point Value 11
Lexile Measure 910


GraceAnne A. DeCandido (Booklist, April 1, 1999 (Vol. 95, No. 15))
Bodett, the genial voice in those Motel 6 commercials, offers a page-turner set in the wilds of Alaska, and he clearly knows the taste of sea and storm, the face of the landscape, and the sound of loons and the scent of salmon. In this sentimental but rousing tale, September Crane, 13, and her 12-year-old brother, Ivan, are often left to themselves while their father fishes for their living; the children know about canning and preserving, clamming, and keeping bears from their stores. Homeschooled, September feels awkward in town, and Ivan is so addicted to video games that he fries their battery-operated radio, their only contact with the outside world. Bodett interweaves the story of the williwaw, a wild storm that took their mother's life and family boat, with a spiraling series of bad choices that begin with Ivan and video games and September's wanting to attend a party. Along the way, we learn about boat safety, respect for the sea, and self-sufficiency in a desolate but splendid place. There's a kindly codger and a nasty one, offstage unpleasant relatives, and very recognizable adolescent longings. Even if the storm is telegraphed and the ending very neat, the weather's majesty and power are convincing, and the sister and brother are appealing characters. Category: Middle Readers. 1999, Knopf, $16 and $17.99. Gr. 5-8.

Donna Freedman (Children's Literature)
Another kids-against-the-elements tale, but with a unique setting and compelling characters. Ivan and September Crane are latchkey kids, Alaska-style. Their widowed father has left the Cranes' island homestead to fish commercially, hoping for a big payday that will let them build a boat of their own. Responsible and hard-working, the kids nonetheless make two very bad decisions that may cost them their lives in a terrible storm. Bodett takes his time getting to the title squall, but he uses that time to paint vivid pictures not just of the Alaska wilderness, but of the people who live there. Ivan and September are particularly well-drawn kids torn between the satisfactions of self-sufficiency and the lure of town luxuries. This exciting read deserves a place on every library's "Adventure" shelf. 1999, Alfred A. Knopf, $16.00 and $17.99. Ages 10 to 14.

Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, 1999)
Bodett (for adults, The Free Fall of Webster Cummings, 1996, etc.) tacks toward a younger audience with this tale of two siblings who prove they're not ready to be on their own. With her fisherman father gone for yet another long stretch, September, and her brother, Ivan, keep up with chores and school lessons in their isolated Alaska cabin; then Ivan attempts to jury-rig a power connection for his video game, and shorts out both radios. Despite their father's express prohibition, the two boat for town, 14 miles across the bay, to get the radios fixed. That first trip becomes a series after September and Ivan discover that the pleasures of the local french fries, chocolate shakes, and human contact outweigh the guilt of breaking promises. Ensuing complications and several poor decisions ultimately put them out in the bay when a "williwaw," a sudden storm, howls in. It's a wild, exciting climax, but the author reaches it only after a leisurely exploration of the push-pull relationship between two lonely children on the edge of adolescence. Reader-interest in these capable but not yet self-reliant characters may flicker in the face of Bodett's overwritten prose and his tendency to harp on certain themes, such as Ivan's video game addiction. Still, with the thrilling finish and singular setting, this is a promising effort. 1999, Knopf, $16.00; PLB $17.99. © 1999 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

CIaire Rosser (KLIATT Review, May 1999 (Vol. 33, No. 3))
Bodett has taken many of us to Alaska through his radio essays on NPR, and through this novel he presents an experience of Alaska to young people. September and Ivan, sister and brother ages 13 and 12, are left alone by their father for a few weeks on their homestead 14 miles across a bay from the nearest town. Via radio, their absent father (out fishing for king crab) instructs them to not hot-wire the radio for video games, stay off the bay, and tend to their numerous responsibilities (taking in the last of the garden produce and canning it, digging a new hole for the outhouse, etc.). The first thing Ivan does that evening is to once again hot-wire the radio for his beloved video game, but this time the radio burns out. The next morning, the two children make the first bad decision that leads to the next bad decision and so forth -- all in their own kind of logic. By week's end their mistakes find them in the middle of the bay during a violent storm, a williwaw, the type of storm that killed their mother on that same bay some years before. Fighting to survive in this storm provides the exciting climax to this story of resourceful, albeit disobedient, children. Bodett really puts his readers there in the howling wind, the huge waves, the cold -- all of it. And since he has done so well in describing the place these children know so well, in its calm beauty, in the rain, in so many guises -- having the familiar completely overtaken by a powerful storm is that much more successful. Another strong point of the story is the portrayal of the friction between the children who live in the "bush," and the town kids who live a life much more connected to the larger world. Ivan, in particular, is so desperately hungry for that larger connection, even though he is close to his father and sister. YA readers will easily understand that hunger. KLIATT Codes: J--Recommended for junior high school students. 1999, Knopf, 192p. 98-36108, $16.00. Ages 13 to 15.

Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
When 13-year-old September and her younger brother, Ivan, are left alone in their Alaskan cabin, disaster is sure to follow--that much is evident early on, given the steady stream of foreshadowing. Shortly after their father leaves for a two-week fishing trip, September and Ivan break both of his rules. Ivan uses radio batteries to recharge his video game and in doing so manages to fry both his toy and the radio, their only means of communication with the outside world. Fearing they will be sent to their aunt's and uncle's farm if their father finds out, the siblings cross the cove in their tiny boat to get the radio fixed. Repairs take longer than expected, so September and Ivan are forced to make a few more forbidden trips to town as the "williwaw," the same type of fierce storm that killed their mother seven years ago, begins to brew. By an NPR commentator and author of The Free Fall of Webster Cummings, this moralistic tale is focused more on measuring the pitfalls of deception than on providing thrills. How and when the children will be punished for their errors in judgment may provoke more interest than how they will contend with rough water during their final crossing. Meanwhile, readers may grow impatient as they await the inevitable. Ages 10-13. (Mar.)

Deborah Stevenson (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, June 1999 (Vol. 52, No. 10))
September and her younger brother, Ivan, live out in the Alaskan bush, and they’re on their own for days at a time when their father works crew on a fishing boat. This time there’s trouble, however, when videogame-mad Ivan connects to the radios to power his obsessive playing and thereby shorts out their only means of contact with the outside world. The kids pile further sins upon the original, disobeying direct parental orders and taking their skiff fourteen miles across the bay into town to get the equipment fixed before their father tries to call them on radios that no longer work. Unfortunately, on the trip to pick up the radios, the unaccustomed pleasures of town social life distract September and Ivan from weather-watching, and they dash to get home before a storm catches them on the water--and they miscalculate. There are some stock components here--the tragic figure of the kids’ dead mother, the mean neighbor who eventually proves kindly, the jolly old salt of a mailboat captain--but Bodett’s attention to Alaskan detail and the story’s effectively suspenseful undertone keep the book fresh nonetheless. Particularly memorable is the inexorable portrayal of September and Ivan as they, in their attempt merely to avoid staying with a disliked aunt, get themselves farther and farther in over their heads; the climactic storm sequence, though dramatically dangerous, is merely the culmination of the siblings’ unknowing downhill slide. The depiction of a life alien to most young readers and the address of the problems of wilderness hubris make this a pleasing variant on the survival story that will gratify young Paulsen fans and outdoor dreamers. Review Code: R -- Recommended. (c) Copyright 1999, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 1999, Knopf, 192p, $16.00 and $17.99. Grades 5-8.


Boats and boating--Fiction.
Brothers and sisters--Fiction.
LanguageCall NumberLCCNDewey DecimalISBN/ISSN
English (eng) PZ7.B63522 Wi 1999
98036108 [Fic]
0679890300 (trade)
0679990305 (lib.)
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