ALAN Picks: Poetry & Environmentalism
This month’s ALAN Picks features a review of a July 2022 arc (advanced release copy) of the novel in verse Don’t Call Me a Hurricane by Ellen Hagan. A story that features climate activism, romance and the importance of home.
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– Richetta Tooley, ALAN Picks Editor
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A Verse Novel About Environmentalism & Love
Don’t Call Me a Hurricane by Ellen Hagan
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Inc.
Publish Date: July 19, 2022
Page Count: 400
Genre: Realistic Fiction/ Environmental Activism/ Romance/ YA Lit
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Synopsis: This story is set on the New Jersey shore which is recovering after a major hurricane ruined countless houses and lives. Eliza and her family are rebuilding, but still feeling the trauma of the hurricane even five years later. When other families couldn’t rebuild, land developers swooped in and bought up the vacant properties, tore down the hurricane-wrecked homes, and built mansions, reshaping the island from what it once was. Eliza and her friends work together to protect what is left of their home while also trying to enjoy their summer before senior year. Eliza, leading the environmental movement, never expects the flood of emotions that threaten to devour her when she meets Milo, who is new to town and represents so much of what she despises about the world outside her beloved island.
This novel written in verse is a love song for the peninsula of New Jersey and also an anthem for all young people who have wanted to make a change but have felt stifled in their efforts. It is a celebration of the power of community and activism despite hardship, and it is also a celebration of love, friendship, and forgiveness. Each poem within this novel brings us closer to Eliza and her family and reveals multi-layered characters who are relatable and realistic. All readers may not live on the New Jersey shoreline with Eliza, but they will be rooting for her and her friends throughout the story. The poems are lyrical and rich with imagery and characterization.
Young adult readers will enjoy the exploration and complexities of friendship and family that are built within the pages, just as educators will appreciate the opportunity to explore poetry in an approachable way that will open doors to so many research opportunities connected to climate change, environmental activism, and the depletion of natural resources.
Suggestions for Curriculum & Classroom Use
This novel in verse explores themes that are relatable to both students and educators, making this text not only enjoyable, but decidedly teachable.
Some thematic topics explored in this novel include:
- The need for environmental activism
- The loyalty of family
- Beauty found in nature
- The value of trust
- Recovery from trauma
- The power of forgiveness
- The value found in friendships
- The power of community
- Power and corruption
- What are we willing to risk to protect who and what we love most?
- How does our sense of self develop from where we live and where we grow up?
- What happens when we feel powerless and incapable of making change? How do/should we respond?
Student Engagement Activities: Favorite Poems
Before reading, give each student 10 post-it notes with the following task:
“As you read, place a post-it note marking your ten favorite poems. These might shift as you continue reading, but you cannot mark more than 10 favorites. After we finish reading, you will be asked to explain WHY you chose those particular poems as your favorites.”
This activity forces students to stay engaged in the reading of the novel beyond just focusing on characters and plot. It asks students to consider the craft of the writing and to make judgment calls.
Formative: Once students finish reading the book, they should have determined which of the 10 poems they marked as their favorites.
Now, ask students to revisit each of those 10 poems and list five reasons they chose it on each post-it note. Ask them to be specific, so rather than writing, “I like this poem because it is pretty,” encourage students to write, “The imagery in this poem allows me to value the setting as much as Eliza does.”
Then, once students have listed their 5 reasons on each of their post-it notes, have them decide which three poems are their TOP favorites out of the 10. Then ask students, for each of those three poems, to pull out specific lines that they feel capture the essence of that poem.
Distribute a chart that looks like this and have students fill it in:
|Copy the lines and the page number from the book:||What is it about these lines that stand out to you the most?||How do these lines relate to a character in the story? Be specific.||How do these lines relate to the overall meaning of the novel, or a theme, within the story?|
Once students complete the chart, they should share out with a partner or even with the class. This chart could then be used as the jumping-off point for an essay.
Reviewed by: Heather Garcia, Curriculum and Instruction Specialist for Secondary ELA and Media, Charlotte County, Florida.