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WV Book Team: Uplifting reads to help cope with disaster

By By Suzy McGinley
WV Book Team

The recent flooding in West Virginia reminds us of our vulnerability to the ravages of nature, even in the 21st century. It also reminds us how unpredictable things can be. Areas that have been damaged before were spared. Areas that had not seen many problems were terribly damaged or destroyed.

Children can be particularly shaken by these disastrous events, even if they are not personally involved. We have seen, following 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina coverage, kids bombarded by media coverage of disasters and national tragedies. There are several good sources for parents and care givers to use to help children through many kinds of losses.

The “Healing your Grieving” heart series includes “Healing Your Grieving Heart for Kids: 100 Practical Ideas,” and “Healing Your Grieving Heart for Teens: 100 Practical Ideas.”

“It’s Okay to Cry: A Parents’ guide to Helping Children through Losses in Life” deals with all sorts of losses that affect children. So does “When Children Grieve: For Adults to Help Children Deal with Death, Divorce, Pet loss, Moving and Other Losses.” Having to move and losing a pet are events that are real to children and are definite possibilities after a flood.

Michaelene Murphy has written several good books about emotions for young children that are good for these times. “Sad Isn’t Bad: A Good-Grief Guidebook for Kids Dealing with Loss” and “Sometimes I’m Afraid: A Book About Fear.”

Picture books are a great way to help children understand and talk about events and concerns. In Jane Kurtz’s picture book “River Friendly, River Wild,” the author explores what it’s like to struggle through a flood and pull your life together afterward.

Inspired by Kurtz’s own flood experience, this tale is realistic and unforgettable. Not just a moving story of one girl’s courage, “River Friendly, River Wild” is a tribute to anyone who’s ever faced great loss.

“Flood” by Alvaro F. Villa is a beautiful, wordless picture book about the effects of a flood on a family and their home.

One of my favorite read-aloud books of any kind is “Come a Tide” by Kentucky author George Ella Lyon. I used to read it to school groups every spring when I worked at the Jackson and Mason County libraries. I love the clever words and the pictures by Steve Gammell that perfectly illustrate and add to the story.

Four days and nights of rain and snow in the mountains and, Grandma predicts, it’ll “come a tide.” When the water recedes, everyone pitches in, excavating household goods — their “buried treasures” — with good cheer.

The reader feels buoyed by the characters’ matter-of-fact resilience; this is a striking and thoroughly captivating portrait of grace and humor in the face of adversity. This book has a strong Appalachian flavor and deals directly with the kind of flooding we have in this region.

The flood that seems to have had the most written about it is the one caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Although a tragic event, some truly heartwarming stories have come in the wake of the disaster.

“A Storm Called Katrina” by Myron Uhlberg is an incredible picture book told from the point of view of 10-year-old Louis Daniel, who is only able to save his prized cornet. As the storm and its aftermath continues, Louis Daniel becomes the family’s provider in this tale of family, loss and recovery.

Like the pets now waiting in shelters here, animals were also gravely affected by Katrina. Two wonderful books based on true stories tell of companionship, resilience and dedication.

Hurricane Katrina crashed a 40-foot tidal wave over the Marine Life Oceanarium in Gulfport, Mississippi. The dolphin house was demolished, and its inhabitants swept from their tank into the Gulf of Mexico.

After growing up in captivity, how could the eight bottlenose dolphins feed and protect themselves in the wild? And if they could survive, would their trainers ever see them again? “Eight Dolphins of Katrina: A True Tale of Survival” by Janet Wyman Coleman is a fascinating picture book that tells this dramatic, happy-ending story.

“Two Bobbies: A True Story Of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship and Survival” by Kirby Larson, Mary Nethery and illustrated by Jean Cassells is my favorite pick. Found wandering the streets together four months after the hurricane, a cat and a dog are taken to the Best Friends Animal Society. Because they both have bobbed tails, the volunteers called them Bobbi and Bob Cat.

Distressed when separated, the workers realize that Bob Cat is blind and Bobbi acted as his “seeing eye dog.” The friendship was a news sensation, and they were adopted together in a safe and happy home. The afterward has pictures of the pair and more information on Katrina and the volunteers who helped humans and animals during that awful time.

Local libraries affected

In our region’s great flood, the Clendenin and Rainelle Public Libraries were totally ruined. The Clay County Public Library’s lower level had 3 ½ feet of water pour in, and it lost all the computers, children’s program supplies and the heating and cooling system. Several school libraries are severely damaged, including Clay County and Herbert Hoover high schools.

During these times of disaster, people want to help out. Many well-meaning people immediately think of donating books to flood-damaged schools and libraries. The trouble is there is no place to put book donations immediately after a flood.

The libraries are still cleaning out ruined furniture and materials. Many school and public libraries have had no electricity or running water for days, and mold is a danger until the building can be aired out.

Several of the facilities will have to be completely gutted because contaminated water has soaked into the flooring and drywall. What the libraries need now are monetary donations.

For the Rainelle Public Library, checks may be made out and mailed to: Rainelle Public Library 378 7th Street Rainelle, WV 25962.

In addition a account has been established by Sarah Palfrey of the Summersville Public Library. Visit to donate.

For the Clendenin branch, checks may be made out and mailed to the Kanawha County Public Library, 123 Capital Street, Charleston, WV 25301, and for Clay, send to Clay County Public Library, 624 Main Street, Clay, WV 25043.

The Library Commission will also accept donations for these facilities. Mail them to West Virginia Library Commission, 1900 Kan. Blvd. E., Culture Center, Charleston, WV 25305. Please tell us where you want your donation to go.

Suzy McGinley is a youth services consultant at the West Virginia Library Commission. For more information on any genre, visit the West Virginia Library Commission website at, call the commission at 800-642-9021,

or email McGinley at

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