The Book of Storms by Ruth Hatfield (Hot Key Books)
PB RRP $16.95
Reviewed by Jacque Duffy
Danny O’Neill is an 11-year-old boy forced to do many adventurous things when his storm chasing parents disappear.
I really wanted to like this book. I loved the cover, and found the blurb intriguing. But I didn’t love it all. While parts of this book were brilliantly thought out and had me on the edge of my seat, they didn’t happen early enough in the story for me to be hooked. Sadly, there are parts that are very standard middle grade to the extent of being overly simplistic.
There was far too much thinking going on in the first half of the novel and the recurring conversations between Danny and his disbelieving older cousin Tom (a difficult character to like) made the book an overly long read.
Some of the characters are excellently written -- their voices perfect. Mitz the cat, and Shimny the pony, both add to the story as do the voice of the river and the song of the worms, clever really. Then you have the disturbing character of Sammael, a truly unsettling villain. I’ve not seen a villain quite like him in children’s literature since Lord Voldamort, actually I think he is more vicious and abusive than Voldy. He is utterly immoral and clearly missing any human empathy. He is a very strong, overpowering character. I kind of enjoyed reading him but found his nastiness just didn’t sit well with the cutesy talking animals and the over explanation of each ‘happening’.
It is as though the book was written for two completely different audiences and mashed together. Sammael deserves to have his own story, possibly something along the lines of a Criminal Minds episode.
As children often read characters older than themselves I thought eleven was too young for most of the content. This story had all the right ingredients, just in the wrong quantities. The ending is not completely expected and gives room for sequels as indicated by the final half of this novel with its change in pacing.
The book, if read in a classroom situation, could raise discussions of death, immortality, and the soul.
Jacque Duffy is the author and illustrator of the book series ‘That’s not a …’ used in all Queensland state primary schools, a picture book The Bear Said Please and one local history coffee table book. www.jacquesartandbooks.com