HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Author: Tom Bodett
Cover Illustrator: Wayne McLoughlin
Publisher: Yearling, republished 2000
ISBN-13: 978-1435299467 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1435299469 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0375806872 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0375806873 (Paperback)
Related websites: http://www.randomhouse.com/kids (publisher)
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 8 and up
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Disclosure: Any books donated for review purposes are in turn donated to a library. No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.
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Bodett, Tom. Williwaw! (published in 1999 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers; republished in 2000 by Yearling, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House Inc., New York City, NY). Do you know what a “williwaw” is? Thirteen-year-old September Crane, and her twelve-year-old brother, Ivan, live at Steamer Cove on Bag Bay in Alaska. Their mother died one night some seven years ago in a williwaw, the dreaded violent windstorm that sweeps across the bay especially in the fall of the year. Their father is a commercial fisherman who has to be away from home, so the two teens, who are homeschooled, are often left to themselves for periods of time. If something ever happens while their father is gone, they may have to start spending their time alone on the farm with Aunt Nelda and Uncle Spitz rather than at home. And their neighbor across the cove, Mr. Berger, is often threatening to call the authorities on them.
Ivan loves to play video games, but the only electricity in the cabin is from a generator which keeps their two radios powered. He has figured a way to tap into the radio batteries to recharge his video game device. However, one night when their father is off with a fishing crew and has told Ivan not to mess with the radios, the boy connects his device to the radio batteries and unintentionally fries both his device and the radios. Over a period of several days, the two have to make a number of forbidden trips by themselves in their skiff to and from the town in order to have the radios repaired. On the final day, they need to be back at the cabin with the radios for their father’s next call. But a friend is having a party in town, and they end up staying longer than intended. A series of bad choices leads to their being caught on the bay in a williwaw. Will they make it home in time? Will they even survive?
Author Tom Bodett, a storyteller, National Public Radio commentator, and author, is best known as the spokesman for Motel 6. “We’ll leave the porch light on for you.” In Williwaw!, he weaves a rousing tale that also includes a lot of information about Alaskan weather, boat safety, northern wildlife, respect for the sea, and the need for obeying parents. A few common euphemistic terms, such as darned, jeez, golly, heck, and gosh, are found, but otherwise I noted a lack of objectionable items so common in much of modern youth literature. It is just a good, enjoyable read. The story moves along slowly for a while, but all the foreshadowing builds up to a really exciting climax, and there is that important, timeless message that even teenagers need to develop moral character and not try to deceive others. Bodett has also written The Free Fall of Webster Cummings and Norman Tuttle on the Last Frontier.