cover image Flood!


Mary Calhoun. HarperCollins, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-688-13919-3

This reassuring story centers upon the preparations taken to stem the 1993 flood in the Midwest, which, according to the book's epilogue, covered towns in 12 to 16 feet of water. Calhoun evokes the likable, fictional Sarajean's anxieties (especially about separation from her dog), the calmness of her parents and the staunch resolve of her grandmother, who at first resists evacuation. The men sandbag, the women make sandwiches, and Sarajean's disbelief that the river will overflow yields to an attempt to reconcile the fact with her love for the river: ""You wouldn't have done this if it hadn't rained so much, Sarajean told her river, trying to forgive it."" Ingraham's (illustrator of Calhoun's Cross-Country Cat) pale, soberly realistic watercolors suit the serious topic, but their extreme restraint and composure, particularly in the emotionless faces of the adults, tamp down the magnitude of the disaster. Despite the potentially dramatic backdrop of the flood, the level-headed story is similarly flat: perhaps overly concerned with setting young readers' minds at ease, the quiet narrative never grips their imagination. Ages 5-up. (Mar.)