Day of the Cyclone
Ella Barclay is thirteen and learning how to be a lady, and she doesn’t like it very much. She doesn’t want to wear a petticoat that scratches, and doesn’t want to sit indoors when she could be out exploring. However, Ella’s mother is constantly reminding her daughter that she is a lady and must act like one. Ella feels that her freedom is being stripped away, until, on her birthday, she receives a Brownie camera from her father and discovers a new way to see her world.
As Ella sets out to take pictures of the people and buildings in her Canadian town, she becomes friends with Billy, a young man from England who is an outcast in Ella’s social circle. At first Billy’s rough manners repulse her, but gradually she comes to see that Billy, like her, secretly wishes for a different life. When a rash of burglaries strikes the town and Billy is blamed, Ella must find a way to prove him innocent. But before the investigation is concluded, a greater menace strikes the town: a deadly tornado that gives Ella an important use for her newfound talents in photography and keen observation.
Based on the Regina Cyclone of 1912, this book offers a little-known slice of Canadian history. Period photographs of the tornado’s aftermath enhance the story, though the history at times trumps the narrative, and some of the plot connections seem tenuous. The author does do an excellent job of portraying prejudices against ethnic groups, as well as discrimination between social classes. Ella is a likeable character who wants to defy the roles of her gender, making this an enjoyable book for younger readers.