Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Dark Water Rising

Dark Water Rising

Marian Hale
For ages 12 and up
Henry Holt, 2006   ISBN: 978-0805075854

Everyone is Seth’s family is thrilled with the idea of moving to the island city of Galveston, Texas. Except Seth. Seth knows that the reason they are moving is so that Seth and his brothers can get a decent education and so that Seth can go to college and become a doctor. There is one big problem with this plan however; Seth wants to become a master carpenter and not a doctor. He loves to work with wood in the outdoors and the idea of spending years studying at a desk fills him with misery.

Still, at least he will get to work for a while on some new houses in Galveston before school starts. He loves his new job and he fits in perfectly with his fellow carpenters, especially Josiah, the young black man who lives nearby. Seth knows that black folks are supposed to be different but he cannot seem to feel that this so-called difference is really there. Then there is Ella Rose, the girl with the sun bright hair who has the power to make Seth feel weak at the knees. Perhaps with Ella Rose to be with, days spent swimming and fishing, and working on the houses things won’t be so bad in Galveston.

Then a storm blows in. At first no one thinks much of the storm. Galveston has weathered many storms before and there is no reason to believe that this one will be any worse than usual. The ocean surges in and Seth and Josiah have to walk through water as they make their way home after work. Then they see that the buildings along the beach are being washed away and smashed up. Surely this is not supposed to happen? The water rises around them and it becomes harder and harder to move forward. Seth goes to his aunt’s house, sure that his family must be there but they are not. With fear gripping him he decides to go to home to see if they are there and Josiah offers to go with him. What follows is a nightmare journey full of terror, horror, and death and when it is over Galveston is in ruins and thousands of people are dead.

In this powerful story Marian Hale not only describes what it was like to be in the middle of the Galveston Storm of 1900, but she also explores a young man’s emotions and his worries about the future. We share Seth’s first feelings of affection for Ella Rose, and come to understand how much he loves working as a carpenter. We are witness to his struggles to relate to this father, and we come to appreciate his courage and big heart as he does his best to help others during the storm and afterwards.