March 2004


263p hc

ISBN: 978-0060086398

Escaping Tornado Season: a story in poems

Julie Williams

from the book...

Allie Benton's summer at her grandparents' house in Minnesota is the same as it's always been: northern lights and pine trees, family gossip and root beer floats. She's come here to escape Nebraska's tornado season every summer for as long as she can remember. The only difference is, this time no one's coming to take her back to Nebraska when fall rolls around.


With her father dead, her mother run off to heaven knows where, and her twin brother, seven years buried, just a ghost in her memory, Allie settles in with her grandparents for a cold Minnesota winter. But it's hard to fit in at a new school when her family can't afford to buy her a pair of blue jeans. And, in an ethnically divided community, Allie isn't even allowed to choose the friends she wants - handsome Joey Redfern and Lidia, the beautiful Ojibwe girl who calls Allie my niijikwe, "my friend."


With a strong poetic voice, Julie Williams creates snapshots of Allie piecing a new life together - longing for her mother, grieving for her father, remembering her brother, and struggling to do what's right in an imperfect world. As the people around her come and go, Allie starts to get a sense of who she is, and of what she can hold on to despite the changes in her world.

If you have read this verse novel and would like to share your opinion of it with other readers please send your review or comments to YARR-A

Escaping Tornado Season is an extremely emotive verse novel, which I found to be a great and hope-inspiring read. It revolves around 13 year old Allie Benton. Allie’s journey through this novel is awe-inspiring in its intensity. The realism of her issues and the misery of that realism made this book even more emotionally powerful for me. There is very little literary relation between the title and the actual novel, which I suppose kind of caught me off guard because I was constantly anticipating ‘tornado season’ to kick in. 

The story itself actually focuses on Allie, her friends and family, and her progression through life. It recognises her struggle to understand racism, which is a constant life occurrence at her school, her attempts to break through that racial barrier, and the joy that all people can bring, regardless of their heritage. It displays the fact that success requires hard work and determination.

Within the first few pages of Escaping Tornado Season, the reader learns of Allie’s father’s premature death. We’re not told the reason for his passing until later in the novel, and I’ll let you find that for yourselves, but the poem there’s no escaping tornado season, which is one of the first poems, refers to his hospitalisation. After the death of her husband, Allie’s mother ‘packs up house’ and they move to Minnesota. It is here that Allie discovers the horrible racism going on at her new school, develops a liking for a native American boy and tries to like her mother more.

She becomes friends with an Ojibwe girl, Lidia, who starts teaching Allie her native language. They develop a really good relationship and become quite good friends. Mr Borden, who is their home science teacher catches them passing notes in one of his classes, and beats Lidia, although it was quite obvious they were both passing notes. Afterwards, Lidia won’t talk to Allie, and doesn’t return to school.

Allie then writes a formal complaint to the principal of the school, and attempts to make contact with Lidia in an effort to get her to return to school. When at last she hears from Lidia, however, she learns the reason she can never return to the school. I won’t give that away though, because it holds major importance in the plot.

I found Allie’s determination throughout this novel extremely inspiring. Almost nothing could knock her down, and she always put other people’s issues before her own.  I would recommend Escaping Tornado Season to people who are really in touch with their emotional side, in a relatively mature age group, perhaps 13+. I would personally rank it 8/10.

Luke, Year 10, Canberra, Australia

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