Flooded: Requiem for Johnstown by Ann E. Burg. Scholastic, 2020. 9781338540697
Format: ARC (10/20 pub date)
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
Genre: Historical fiction/novel in verse
What did you like about the book? This is historical fiction at its finest. Through the voices of six young people, the devastating flood of May 1889 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania is brought to life. Achingly personal tales of hope, struggle, loss and grief describe what was the largest loss of civilian life at the time – over 2,200 people died. Burg based the voices on actual survivors, while fictionalizing their experience. Readers learn about the poverty of the working class community which was situated in a valley below an elite club for fishing and hunting. The club was on the shore of a lake with an old, deteriorating dam, which the Johnstown residents had pleaded to have repaired. Spring rains caused the dam to collapse. Issues of class, the environment and injustice come to bear, as the ultra rich barons of industry who owned the club abrogated responsibility for the disaster. Although they gave millions to help the city rebuild, the loss of life was incalculable.
The voices belong to six people, from toddler age through teenage. The entries are interspersed and interrelated, and lend a deeply personal viewpoint to the disaster. Equally effecting are the entries at the end by the unnamed dead, immigrants, homeless, working class people struggling to live the American dream. An author’s note at the end adds historical context. A deeply moving look at a forgotten tragedy from history.
Anything you didn’t like about it? No
To whom would you recommend this book? For fans of novels in verse, historical fiction, ages 10 and up. Appropriate for inclusion in units on post Civil War history. Also useful as a hi/lo reading choice.
Who should buy this book? Elementary, middle and high school and public libraries
Where would you shelve it ? Fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA
Date of review: September 22, 2020