Title: Hurricane Mia: A Caribbean Adventure
Author: Donna Marie Seim
Illustrator: Susan Spellman
Publisher: Peapod Press
Concepts: wants/needs, child schooling and work, markets, producers/consumers
Review: Mia thinks her entire summer is ruined when she has to travel from Boston to spend her vacation with her grandparents at their Caribbean home instead of going camping with her friend. She is stuck on an island with limited contact with the outside world and thinking she has little to do with no computer, TV, DVD player, or cell service. To make matters worse, the reason she has to stay with her grandparents is because her mother has leukemia.
But a chance encounter with a local girl named Neisha sets Mia’s mind turning. Neisha tells Mia about a bush doctor named Auntie Cecilia who has a tea that cures everything. Mia is determined to buy this tea to make her mother well and return to her regularly scheduled life. Mia tries to save up tips by working at the Green Flash Café, the restaurant owned by Neisha’s mother. When she finds out it will cost $300 to charter a boat to get to the remote island where Auntie Cecilia lives, Mia realizes she will never make enough tips and decides to take matters into her own hands! Adventure ensues as Mia, Neisha, and Mia’s little brother try to find their own way out to the island.
Beyond Mia’s working at the restaurant for tips to save up for purchasing the tea, there are other economic lessons hidden in this chapter book. For instance, readers will see how children’s schooling differs in other cultures by learning that Neisha can’t go to high school because it’s on a different island and her mother can’t afford the boat ride it would take to send her to school every day. Mia and Neisha get crash courses in markets by understanding how tourists influence local businesses, such as the Green Flash Café. In another instance, the girls are given a free ride on a horse to help drum up customers for a local man who sells horse rides, with the idea that their ride would show how gentle the horse is so people would want to ride it.
In addition to its economic lessons, the book is an interesting look at cultural differences, friendship, and family relations. It’s also a book about learning when it’s right to persevere and when it’s just plain stubborn – and learning from mistakes that happen as a result of the latter choice.
The gentle pencil-sketched illustrations are an added bonus, especially for seeing the character’s faces as envisioned by the creative team, but these illustrations are not indispensible. There is also a map on page 90, which is a nice touch but might have been better suited at the beginning of the book so that readers would learn the new geography right away instead of towards the end of the book.
The book concludes with helpful supplementary features – a glossary, plans for a Caribbean party, discussion questions, and a bibliography. Children are thus given the chance to further interact with the book and its subject matter, whether alone or in groups.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children