Based on real events, this debut illustrated children’s book tells the story of how a boy, his family, and his dog survive the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926.
Harry Berg is almost 4 years old when his family relocates from Detroit to Miami in search of new opportunities, like many white Northerners of the time. For Harry and his little brother, Russ, Miami is excitingly different from up north, with its palm trees, tropical flowers, and exotic-sounding neighborhoods. The Bergs settle in, adopt a stray puppy they name Patches, and move first into a duplex and then to a small house that, though covered in tar paper, actually contains an indoor toilet. Life is good—and then a huge storm hits Miami on Sept. 18, 1926. In their frail house, the family prays to stay alive. After passing safely through the eye of the hurricane, the group finds the next day even more terrifying. Harry, clutching Patches tight, manages to find safety with neighbors in their Model T; everyone survives. Though for years afterward the boy has nightmares, they eventually fade. Looking back in 2006, Harry realizes the hurricane taught him the importance of protecting those you love and to “Fear Nothing” because protective forces watch over everyone. An afterword, epilogue, and family photographs round out the story, along with simple but attractive monochrome images by debut illustrator Petersmark; the full-color cover is somewhat misleading in showing a cheerful Harry mid-hurricane. In his book, author Gordon Berg draws on family history and hurricane survivors’ accounts. The terrifying event comes alive, not just its destructiveness, but also small details. Hiding under a table, Harry notices “the faded alphabet I had scrawled underneath when I was in first grade. If I could rearrange the letters now, they would spell, ‘HELP US.’ ” Adding to the drama, the hurricane comments on the action like a psychopathic killer: “I blew her house apart a few hours ago. She is now tying herself to a tree….What is that she’s holding? A baby…wrapped in a blanket. My my.” Though harrowing, the story effectively emphasizes faith and mutual support.
A dramatic and absorbing tale of a historic storm.