Flooded: Requiem for Johnstown

Scholastic. Oct. 2020. 336p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781338540697.
Gr 4 Up–In 1889, Johnstown, PA, was a mix of Civil War veterans, immigrants, and coal and steel miners, whose families and children were looking toward the future. Everyone was planning for Decoration Day. Little Gertrude Quinn was thrilled that her older brother had saved her the last flag from their father’s store. William James was madly editing his first original poem, which he would recite in front of the entire town, and Joe Dixon planned to propose to his sweetheart Maggie. Through the rain, flags waved, songs were sung and the veterans parade filled the town with both pride and strength, but the rain kept coming. Within a few hours, Johnstown and its residents would never be the same. Stunning, significant, and sorrowful, Burg’s requiem melts history into prose. Brimming with sensory imagery and cadence that breathe life back into the disaster, this novel in verse serenades readers with multiple, yet personal, voices who illuminate daily life in Johnstown before and after the historic flood. Readers will quickly form empathetic connections with real-life characters. Through significant research and written testimony, Burg provides insight to the aftermath and unearths South Fork Dam’s faulty structure and the liability of its prestigious Fishing and Hunting Club. The novel’s artistry makes use of faded typeface to give voice after death to main characters as well as anonymous victims. Budding historians will be intrigued with new perspectives on prominent figures, such as Clara Barton, Andrew Carnegie, and Henry Clay.
VERDICT Highly recommended as a tragically engaging, poetic account of the 1889 disaster, which will leave an impression upon its readers.

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