The Storm Makers by Jennifer E. Smith ( website | twitter)
Upcoming Publication Date: April 3, 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown
Target Audience: Middle grade
Format read: ARC paperback from ALA (Thank you!)
Summary: Plucked from their hometown to a desolate farm by their parents who are hoping to pursue their own passions, twins Ruby and Simon are growing apart. Ruby can’t seem to put her finger on what’s going on, especially when her brother starts to act more strange than normal, the weather’s gone a bit crazy, and a mysterious man seems to be staying in their shed. And he has news. It seems that Simon is a Storm Maker, part of an exclusive group of people that can control the weather, and his help is needed.
It’s been a long time since I dived into a Middle Grade book. The last time was probably seven years ago when I was in my backyard starting the Harry Potter series. Years and years after it had first been released because I didn’t think I could get into it. Was I ever wrong. As most of us know, Harry Potter is the quintessential good vs. evil, love vs. hate type series. With friendships and magical powers even I could appreciate. Everything about it is so diligently detail oriented, and that was part of the reason I adored the series so much and felt so attached to the characters. All the elements of a well-planned out, well-cared for story were there.
While The Storm Makers was reminiscent of the Harry Potter series for me (basically because Simon was almost like “the chosen one”, the good vs. evil theme, and for its more fantastical elements), the writing style and the basic plot line brought me back to some classics of my own middle grade reading experiences. Specifically, A Wrinkle and Time and From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, where two siblings embark on some sort of adventure and are forced to come together and overcome odds in some way. The big difference in The Storm Makers is Jennifer E. Smith’s simple yet gorgeous way of writing. I have to admit that was one of my biggest fears. Would her style remain intact even though she was writing for a younger audience? And it does. It really does. She has such a quiet, down-to-earth way of explaining the thoughts of her characters… it’s so exclusively her. (Seriously, Jennifer can do no wrong in my eyes.)
The idea of a group individuals having the power to control the weather is fascinating, and I really liked the way it was presented here especially since Simon isn’t particularly talented at any one thing and Ruby is more book smart of the two. There’s a certain shift in jealously that would provide for some interesting discussions in a class, or even with parents who are reading this book with their children. I loved there were so many elements of the story that could be used to teach children something but not in a way that was banging them over the head with lessons about the world. When the villain of the story comes into play and his own actions are fully known, there is just an overflow of subjects that can be brought up and fully discussed. As a person who absolutely loved the literature portion of any of my grades, I could just imagine the amazing projects that could come out of a book like this one.
A word of warning: The Storm Makers starts a little slow. It probably took about a hundred pages or so before I was fully invested in it. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m not used to reading this type of grade level or just because it’s typical in a book that needs to introduce so much, especially if it is to become a series. (I’m not sure if this is going to happen but it definitely could.) There’s a lot to set up when it comes to creating an involved world like this one, but I think patience pays off in the end. Readers will grow to relate to (or care for) either Ruby or Simon (or both) and the supporting characters carry their own depth in many entertaining (and heartbreaking) ways. I’m interested to see if and when the story continues…