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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Tornadoes and a disaster survivor series from Bearport

Erased by a Tornado! by Jessica Rudolph. Bearport, 2010. ISBN 9781936087525

April 4-10 was Tornado Week yet last weekend was the wild one in the South.  Thanks to the Weather Channel’s emailing me during Tornado week, I could pull materials and activities for interested students. Try out their interactive tornado simulator. While I haven’t been blogging about it, I have been using an interesting title from Bearport’s Disaster Survivors series called Erased by a Tornado! 

Thanks to Erased by a Tornado! I have been spouting tornado trivia to everyone whether they are interested or not. For example, tornadoes usually occur in spring and summer yet the Super Tuesday Tornado outbreak of 87 tornadoes in 2008 happened in February. As the book states, "Tornadoes can be deadly because they are powerful and unpredictable." 

This Bearport series focusing on survival tales is a hit. Everyone has a story regarding their experience with tornadoes. Erased by a Tornado! interweaves narratives with facts in an engaging approach that captures student’s attention. I tortured a group of students during our testing week by telling them since we had to stay locked up in the room and quiet, I was going to read them a story. 

At first, some of the boys groaned and threw themselves back in their chairs as if suffering. (This was definitely a group of non-readers). Then one of them looked at me and said, "Well, maybe, if its a good book… What are you going to read?" 

I whipped out Erased by a Tornado and began reading quickly to this definitely un-engaged audience. The first page tells the story of the tornado that ripped through Jackson, Tennessee in 2008. Students perked up to see before and after photos of the damage that happened recently and for an event they could recall. As I read on, students got up, gathering closer and closer, until at the end of this 32-page book, they had created a human bubble surrounding me to read along and examine the photos. These are sixth graders, not preschoolers, and 11 of 12 were boys.

In fact, they caught me skipping one caption and demanded I read it, then went back through the book themselves to be sure I had read every caption after we finished the story. The students "allowed" me to read the information at the end on "Famous Tornadoes" and even "Tornado Safety". While they insisted they knew everything about safety and could outrun a tornado, they listened intently then helped interact with the weather channel’s interactive tornado simulator. After seeing an animated drawing of a human being tossed by a tornado, they agreed to always take cover in any future disasters. Who knows? Maybe the combination of facts and true stories will someday save their lives. 

I knew this title had been a hit when I finished and they ripped the book from my hands to turn it to the back cover and see which other titles in the series I had. They read aloud to each other the other titles and did an impromptu survey of which ones I had to purchase next. Well, look at this list in their rank order of interest and you can see why:

Erased by a Tornado!
Mangled by a Hurricane!
Slammed by a Tsunami!
Leveled by an Earthquake!
Devastated by a Volcano!
Struck by Lightning!
Hammered by a Heat Wave!
Blitzed by a Blizzard!

The Bearport Disaster Survivors series is a definite hit among the elementary and middle school students who have read it. As usual, the design team has created a highly engaging visual experience that interweaves fact and story. A must purchase for all libraries. Even SLJ reviewers agree and they do it with such eloquence:

"Students with a penchant for the extreme will relish the dangerous situations described in these fact-filled works, whose first-person accounts add nail-biting immediacy. "
—School Library Journal


  1. Histyler says:

    Diane, the books all share valuable information, as shares. As one who respects the humane aspect of all creative works, from organic haircolor to original celluloid motion pictures and their leading talent, they all pale in comparison to the face of my friend, Richard, co-owner Gabirle’s Garden, when as I visited, he received a phone call from his home town, Yazoo, MS, warning him about the tornado headed their way. I excused myself, encouraging him to take their call. Why? I personally lived beyond. Back in 1998, in Florence, AL, often referred to as Muscle Shoals, where Elvis pressed his first records. Two houses west of ours is where a tornado split, passed in front of us and behind us, as we hovered in the hallway of our house, under sofa cushsions, listening as the tornado passed. It joined again, 5 doors down and then cut a quarter mile wide path through a heavily wooded forest for 3 miles.

    My sympathy and concern along with a heart of thanksgiving go out to everyone who experiences anything near this topic.

    We were young and recovered quickly. So much so, our young daughter then, Lizzi, now, Mrs. Bambakakis, living in VA with her husband of 6 months survived without any apparent lifelong scars. A testimony of encouragement to all of the young boys and girls. There is life after a 2. Thanks for the attention to such a possibly horrifying experience, that was not really so bad at all..

    Thanks for your integrity. Michael