A historical look at the American experience with hurricanes, A Furious Sky by Eric Jay Dolin, is an interesting perspective on human tragedy. No one said hurricanes don’t cause death and destruction but one has to wonder after reading this non-fiction book if more could have been done to lessen the impact over the last 500 years.

I not only learned a little more about hurricanes – like many I have a fascination with extreme weather events – but also a little history along the way. My favorite history mentioned in the book were 1) how a hurricane helped the American Revolution and 2) how a hurricane helped strengthen the third rebuild of the North Church steeple.

Overall, though it was the stories of human experience through many of these tempests that made the book truly a page-turner of a read – be warned that the experience isn’t always uplifting. This book isn’t without it’s undertone of negative outlook on choice made by the Weather Bureau and the government (or other figureheads). But it is not the focus, it is really about simply pointing out the truth and the facts surrounding each disaster.

There is also the insightful somewhat hilarious (my perspective not the author) stories of attempts to seed hurricanes. I do think it is truly a human misfortune to continually strive to tame nature… some times I just have to shake my head.

As I read the book, I was constantly thinking about how to integrate the experiences and history into my classroom for better understanding and experience. The idea of seeding hurricanes did actually make me wonder about a project idea to see what students might come up with, but I would hope they would prefer to think about better tracking and understanding of hurricane movement. I also spent time wondering about Katrina and New Orleans, especially after learning that the new levees system is sinking and may fail in the future.

Hurricanes are a fact of life for the eastern seaboard and Gulf area (not to lessen the impact they can have elsewhere, including other cyclonic systems). With Superstorm Sandy having occurred within the memorable lifetime of my current students it can certainly be an important phenomena for learning. The other hurricanes are no less important for the lessons they have taught humans, but unfortunately often students find events that ‘are before their time’ less fascinating. I’m working on an activity that uses these historical hurricanes to build a model for the future events that are certain to impact America – especially with the increased influence of climate change (also mentioned in the book).

I’m always drawn to bring literacy into the classroom and there are a multitude of stories that could be rendered in this book for classroom learning – especially for those who live in these landfall target zones.

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Winter Reading Review: A Furious Sky

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