Kate Shelley and the Midnight Expressby Margaret K. Wetterer (Author), Karen Ritz (Illustrator)
This is a true story of a girl who saved many lives during a raging storm in Iowa in 1881.
Kate Shelley lived with her mother and younger siblings on a farm in Iowa. Their house overlooked the railroad line which ran over a bridge built on top of Honey Creek river.
On July 6th, 1881, a terrible storm raged and hit the Des Moines River valley. Rain poured all day long. Kate and her family watched as the river water kept rising in the Honey Creek. And soon enough the river flooded the banks and the yard.
Kate ran to help the barn animals. She let the horses go to higher grounds and rescued the piglets and led them indoors into their house. But the rain kept pouring. Flood water kept creeping closer to their house. It was dark outside now and when the lightning flashed, Kate could see the rail tracks shining in the light. But she wondered about how the bridge itself was holding up in the storm?
As the family sat down for dinner, Kate voiced her concerns. Kate knew that the Midnight Express would pass through Moingona station (near her house) and it would not stop there. She knew that it would cross the bridge over Honey Creek bridge. But was the bridge safe enough?
Shortly after 11:00pm, Kate and her mother heard the railroad men coming by on an engine to check whether the tracks and the bridges were safe for the Midnight Express. Suddenly, Kate heard a terrible crack and a splash. She knew that the bridge had broken!
Kate knew that the engine and the railroad men had fallen into the raging river. She knew that she simply had to go and get help to save the men. Not just that, now that the bridge had gone under, she must find a way to stop the Midnight Express carrying large number of passengers from passing the Moingona station.
But will she be able to get there in time? And how will she be able to navigate the thundering storm and pouring rain to get to the station? Kate must fight wind, rain and darkness and make her way over another bridge to get to the station.
This true story about bravado and courage of a 15 year old girl, should be a read aloud in every household! Written in simple narrative, the story is easy to understand for young readers. This is a great story to talk about character development and teach about personality traits. It also makes a great conversation starter for teaching children about all the other people who build their careers around saving lives.
DD and I loved reading this story. We discussed what we could do in times of emergencies and we also talked about how we could help others during trying times.
So many lessons from one true story!
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