Storm Warriors Discussion Guide
- Grades: 6–8
About this book
Awards: An ALA Notable Children's Book; Winner of the 2002 Virginia Library Association's Jefferson Cup Award
Subject Area: Language Arts, Social Studies
Reading Level: 5.9
The year is 1895, and young Nathan Williams lives with his father and grandfather on remote Pea Island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The legacy of slavery is still well remembered; threats of the Ku Klux Klan drove Nathan's family from their home, and the Pea Island Lifesaving Station is the only one in North Carolina run by African-American surfmen (an all black lifesaving team). Nathan dreams of becoming a surfman, but when a hurricane strikes, does he really have the courage to risk his life saving crewmembers in a ship rescue?
Students will explore and discuss aspects of Storm Warriors including the development of the characters and the story's historical setting. They will pay particular attention to the atmosphere of turn-of-the-century North Carolina and will contrast that environment to their own modern world. Standard: Makes connections between the motives of characters or the causes for complex events in texts and those in his or her own life.
Bring in a book of photos or use Internet resources to show your students some historic lighthouses and lifesaving stations in America, especially in North Carolina. Share with your students some basic facts and stories, including accounts of famous shipwrecks. Ask your students if they've visited any lighthouses or lifesaving stations, and if they have, what they learned when they were there. Finally, familiarize your students to North Carolina's Outer Banks, using a map and photos, both as it is today and as it was 100 years ago.
Signs of the Times
- After reading Storm Warriors, ask your students to discuss the historic setting of the novel. What historic events would have recently taken place in America in 1895? (Students may need to do some extra research using the Internet or the library.) How are the characters' lives different from the way people live today? In what ways do aspects of Storm Warriors resemble modern life? What are the attitudes of the book's characters in terms of race-related issues, and how do these compare with modern attitudes?
- Ask your students to talk about the ways that the characters of Storm Warriors were affected by the time and place in which they lived. Discuss all the major and minor characters, one by one, and examine the ways in which their lives were determined by their environments. How would their ambitions, their careers, and their family life be different if they lived in modern times instead of over 100 years ago?
- Storm Warriors portrays men who are in many ways defined by their jobs. How did the surfmen get their positions? Why did Nathan's father choose to be a fisherman? Why do Nathan and the other boys long to be surfmen? How does Nathan eventually come to find his own career path in life? Do students feel Nathan made the right decision about his future at the end of the book? What other career choices would have been available to African-American men in this time and place?
- Have your students interview a parent, guardian, or other close adult to find out how they decided on their career path. What were the various steps, obstacles, and sidetracks involved? In hindsight, does this adult feel that he/she made the correct choices? What would he/she change, and what would remain the same? Students will take notes from their interviews and write up the results in a short writing piece or journal entry.
More Sea Stories
Sink or Swim: African-American Lifesavers of the Outer Banks
by Carole Boston Weatherford
This is a nonfiction account of Richard Etheridge, the first African-American keeper in the Lifesaving service, and the Pea Island surfmen. It chronicles the history of Eldridge, including his background before he became a keeper, and follows many of the same events as Storm Warriors, including the hurricane rescue and the recognition they received nearly 100 years later.
Shipwrecked: The True Story of a Japanese Boy
by Rhoda Blumberg
Fourteen-year-old Manjiro, a Japanese boy, was shipwrecked while fishing in 1841. He was stranded for six months on an island and was rescued by an American whaling ship, becoming the first Japanese person to ever set foot on American soil. He returned home to Japan and eventually became a samurai.
The Outer Banks Trilogy (Ben O'Neal and Teetoncey)
by Theodore Taylor
While these books are out of print and may only be available as used editions or in libraries, they provide an excellent portrait of sailing life in the late 1800s on the Outer Banks. Ben O'Neal is a boy who dreams of becoming a sailor. Teetoncey is a small girl who won't speak, washed ashore from a shipwreck.
Other Books by Elisa Carbone
Starting School With an Enemy
Sarah and the Naked Truth
Teaching plan written by Beth Doty