Author pens historical fiction novel about 1997 flood for young readers
Elizabeth Raum was inspired to write the story while living through the event
FARGO — As the Red River rose throughout the valley more than 24 years ago, author Elizabeth Raum was struck by the stories she saw on the nightly news and heard on the local radio station.
"I was in my basement mopping up water, listening to Jack Sunday on the radio, and it was absolutely fascinating to hear what people were calling to talk about," she said. "I thought, 'Imagine if a kid was home alone while the flood waters were rising...'"
Raum's "Storm Warning" is based on that premise: 12-year-old North Olson is left at home in Ada, Minnesota, with his 8-year-old sister when his parents need to make an emergency trip to Fargo. He faces challenge after challenge during one of the worst floods in the area's history, which forces him to use every ounce of resourcefulness and perseverance that he can muster.
Raum has written more than 100 books for young readers , but this middle-grade novel is the first with a connection to the area. She decided to place the Olson family in Ada because the pictures she saw in The Forum all those years ago showed big chunks of ice in the streets while National Guard members tried to evacuate residents . "It just seemed so dramatic," she said. "A 12-year-old boy is always looking for a way to become a hero, so I thought I would put him in a difficult situation and make it worse and worse."
The drama begins immediately as North and his friends help with the sandbagging effort, and on that fateful Saturday, April 6, as the blizzard moves in, his parents have to head into Fargo, leaving him in charge of his younger sister, with their great-grandmother next door in case of emergency. The story moves along at a rapid clip, as the weather and circumstances North has to deal with deteriorate just as quickly. North's ingenuity and courage in the face of mounting challenges is commendable, and other young readers will no doubt be inspired by him.
Local readers (and their parents) will be delighted by the many references to Fargo-Moorhead staples like WDAY meteorologist John Wheeler, Starr Fireworks, Peggy Lee, former KFGO radio hosts Jack Sunday and Sandy Buttweiler and so many more. While the story is fictional, the circumstances are indeed true and mirror what so many remember happening during the terrible flooding in the spring of 1997. Because of that, Raum said she did ample research to make sure all the historical details included in the novel were accurate, an effort that hearkened back to her days as a reference librarian. That experience, which followed years as a teacher, started her on a path toward writing books for children.
"The goal is always to get kids reading," she explained.
The prolific author has penned more than 100 books, many for educational publishers as well as Christian publishers. Raum said she hopes to write more with a local connection, although that may have to wait because she has four other projects in the works right now. Those include a Christmas stories collaboration, a book about the U.S. Constitution, as well as a book about Daniel Boone's daughter.
"Storm Warning" is available online as well as locally at Zandbroz and Barnes & Noble.
For more information about Raum and her books, visit www.elizabethraumbooks.com .