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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Reader's Diary #1849- Leanne Shirtliffe, illustrated by Georgia Graham: Saving Thunder the Great

It's been a while since I've read a picture book, let alone written about one on my blog, but I've finally read Leanne Shirtliffe's Saving Thunder the Great: the true story of a gerbil's rescue from the Fort McMurray wildfire and I'm counting it as my Alberta pick for the 11th Canadian Book Challenge*.

I've read a few picture books based on real life tragedies and haven't always enjoyed them. Sometimes the situations have been too specific and isolated to really need or appeal to an international audience, sometimes I've found them questionably too graphic and insensitive for younger readers.

Forest fires are a very real part of life in Yellowknife (hopefully not this summer as we've had a wetter than usual spring) and so I could relate to that aspect of Shirtliffe's book, but even if they were not, I think it would still be appealing. Kids of course will like the gerbil, but they'd also likely be drawn to the danger of the story which Shirtliffe wastes no time getting to. Parents, like myself, will be more likely drawn to the mom in the story who is determined to take her son's gerbil with her. Her son is off, safely, visiting his grandparents in Newfoundland and she misses him terribly.

I also don't think most readers would find it too traumatic. It helps, I suppose, that most of the damage was property damage and that it could have been much worse. That said, I will correct one detail in the author's note at the end. She writes that "the fire claimed no one." Maybe not directly, but two were killed as they tried to escape the town.

Georgia Graham's illustrations are big, colourful, and realistic; highly appropriate for this true story.


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