Terrific Tornado


By Betsy Byars, Illustrated by Doron Ben-Ami


Published by: HarperCollins; Reprint edition (December 28, 2004)

Available in: paperback, hardcover



That one word sparks such instant fear and excitement, it’s almost hard for the rest of the story to maintain the pace. But Newberry-medalist Betsy Byars is that rare author who can, and Tornado blows into your heart with a fierce hold.

Short and achingly sweet, the whole story is a series of vignettes a farm hand tells a family while they sit out a twister in a storm cellar. Left subtly in the background—rarely stated—is the fact the family’s father didn’t make it to the storm cellar. Everyone is worried. The stories are just a smooth way to distract.

Since the vignettes are about the farm hand’s dog when he was a boy, Tornado is a dog lover’s delight. (Full disclosure: dog lover here.) At only 49 pages in the print version, this chapter book is over before the young reader even knows it. And have no fear, Dad makes it in the end, but the tension is kept taut the entire book.

The lush illustrations are another exceptional component. Rich, full-page drawings seem to steep in the shadowy cellar mood. Kids can spend minutes relishing each one.

Perhaps this book is a bit dated–the use of flashbacks to tell most of the story is definitely frowned upon today. But the pure soul of this is a classic. Would that all chapter books were this excellent in content, emotion and artistic reach.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….

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