Right around the time Hurricane Sandy hit, a book called The Storm Makers by Jennifer E. Smith made its way to the top of my review pile. Funny thing, I didn’t quite feel like reading a book by that name at that time. Many months later, I’m glad I picked it up again.
Ruby and her family left a life in the suburbs for a life in the country so her dad could invent and her mom could paint and maybe they could grow some crops . . . well, they could except for the terrible drought. Ruby noticed that a stranger was living in their barn, a tall, lanky stranger in a worn hat. While she knew she should probably tell her family, she didn’t.
That’s not the only strange thing happening on the barn. Her twin brother, Simon, has been short circuiting toasters, and the dogs have been steering clear of him. Also, she and Simon aren’t as close as they used to be in their old life.
While on a bike ride, who should Ruby run into but the stranger from the barn. Otis Gray. Right as he told Ruby, “I’m here to help your brother,” a huge storm kicked up, coming out of nowhere. Ruby pedaled back home to find her brother has taken ill with the same speed as the storm that came out of nowhere. Mysterious, right?
Through Otis and others, Ruby gradually learns of a group of people called Storm Makers — people who can control the weather — and learns that her brother is one of them, the youngest anyone has ever seen. To complicate matters, there’s a rift among Storm Makers about whether to use their power for good or for evil, to help normalize extreme weather or to make people pay for what they’ve done to the planet.
The book reads like a good origin story, following Simon as he develops his power and learns his role in the warring factions of the Storm Makers. Of course, the book is told from Ruby’s point of view, so I was waiting and waiting to see how she came into play. I wasn’t disappointed. That’s not to say it was predictable. On the contrary, there’s a pivotal scene about the transfer of power in the Storm Makers that took me totally by surprise. The Storm Makers as well.
I really love stories where kids find their own strength, power, and independence, and The Storm Makers is that x 2, as we learn more about both Simon and Ruby. It’s great reading for your middle grade reader. Bonus: awesome illustrations by Brett Helquist.