Slow Storm

by Danica Novgorodoff

Publisher: First Second

Format: Softcover, 6x9, full color, $17.95

ISBN: 978-1-59643-250-5

Reviewed by: School Library Journal

Ursa and her brother, both Kentucky firefighters, respond to reports of a burning horse barn in the aftermath of a fierce tornado. Frustrated by his constant jibes, Ursa traps him in the burning building, but, when he escapes, he unexpectedly blames it on Rafi, the undocumented Mexican immigrant who was living and working in the loft. Using somber watercolors, the artist works hard to create a sense of place, periodically breaking up the already slow-paced story with full-page evocations of the vast, tumultuous skies and the hills of Kentucky and Mexico. The line work is rough and has a certain degree of shapelessness, which works well with the nature scenes and the watercolors themselves, but which makes the characters occasionally seem clumsy. Where it works exceptionally well, however, is in the depiction of Ursa's rage-induced visions and the magical realism of Rafi's journey to the U.S., where policemen ride pigs and he has to climb over St. Peter's Gate to cross the border. Also compelling are the author’s tone-clear rendition of Rafi's broken English and the strangeness of the protagonists' decisions. The atmospheric tone of the medium and the setting, combined with the weirdness of the characters' actions and their hallucinatory impressions, creates a curious, open-ended, and emotional reading experience. –Benjamin Russell, Belmont High School, NH