Sunday, April 17, 2011

Storm Runners, by Roland Smith - three teens surviving a hurricane (ages 8 - 12)

“The bus hit the water like a torpedo, pushing Chase’s face into the seat frame. He felt a front tooth snap, followed by the coppery taste of blood. Frantically he felt around for his go bag. He’d need the first aid kit and everything else in the bag if they survived the crash…”
- Roland Smith, Storm Runners (ARC, p. 74)
Imagine knowing a Category Five hurricane is barreling toward you and you're trapped inside a school bus trying to get you home. It's storm-dark, and rain is pelting the bus so hard that you can't see anything outside. Suddenly, the bus is lifted off its wheels and tossed onto its side, then down, down into water. Thirteen-year old Chase Masters knows he's in a life-or-death situation, and he does everything he can to survive this incredible situation. This is a book that will grab young readers, pull them through, and have them begging for the sequel.
Storm RunnersStorm Runners
by Roland Smith
NY: Scholastic, 2010
audiobook narrated by Ramon de Ocampo
ages 8 - 12
available on Amazon and at your local library
Chase Masters and his father have been traveling across the U.S. following major storms and disasters ever since his father survived a lightning strike a year ago. They pursue tornadoes, floods, hurricanes - anywhere that disaster strikes, they'll be there, first offering to help people prepare for the disaster, and then being the first contractors on site to make money as people have to repair their homes. Chase has been trained to be a survivor - he knows what to do in case of emergencies and is prepared. But is he prepared for Hurricane Emily as it barrels down on the west coast of Florida?

If your child likes stories that keep you on the edge of your seat, this might be a great choice. Roland Smith excels at putting you right in the middle of a scene, making you feel every branch that whips past your face in the hurricane force winds. You can feel the crocodile's tail whip out as it takes Chase's legs out from under him, and hear the beast's jaws crash inches from your head. This is certainly a great book to get the adrenaline pumping.

Although it is short and full of action, I would recommend it for students in 4th or 5th grade who are stronger readers, able to keep several storylines in their minds. Smith switches the action from Chase to his father to the local newscaster. This heightens the drama, as Chase struggles for survival and his father searches for him. But the shifting point of view might be confusing to some readers. The biggest problem most readers will face is the cliff-hanger ending. My students are dying to get their hands on the sequel Storm Runners #2: The Surge, but it won't be out until September 1, 2011.

I Survived #3: I Survived Hurricane Katrina, 2005If you enjoy action stories, I highly recommend Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen. This Newbery winning book is one of my all time favorite stories, a classic survival story pulls you in right in the very first chapter and has you hanging onto each page until it reaches a satisfying conclusion. Students who have liked Storm Runners have also liked Scholastic's I Survived series, which currently include:

The review copy was kindly sent by Scholastic. Several of our students have read and loved Storm Runners. We'll definitely be ordering it (and The Surge) for our collection. We've also ordered Peak and Elephant Run, two other books by Roland Smith that appeal to 4th and 5th graders who love survival stories. I have not tried Smith's series I,Q, and would love to know what others think. Is this popular with 4th and 5th graders? What types of readers does it appeal to?

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Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.

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