Terror at Bottle Creek

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Terror at Bottle Creek Book Poster Image
Short, punchy chapters propel storm-survival tale.

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Kids say

age 12+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Terror at Bottle Creek provides a sensitive and respectful picture of life on the edge of a Gulf Coast swamp. The author describes the effects of a major hurricane with precision.

Positive Messages

In an emergency, families should expect to help one another. Perseverance and determination give people a better chance of surviving life-threatening circumstances. Children do not necessarily need to follow in their parents' footsteps.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Cort is extremely responsible and conscientious, trying to keep the family business going while his father is physically and emotionally absent. He keeps a cool head in the face of great danger and puts the safety of others ahead of his own.

Violence

Violent scenes are limited to threats from nature. Cort and his friends are attacked by ants, snakes, and feral pigs, and each child suffers physical injury during the storm.

Sex

Cort and Liza clearly have crushes on each other, but they have little time or inclination to express their feelings during the storm.

Language

"Dammit" and "damn" a couple times each.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Terror at Bottle Creek by Watt Key is a gripping tale of survival set during a category 3 hurricane in Alabama. When the storm hits, 13-year-old Cort must protect himself and two young neighbor girls, but they wind up in the swamp, threatened by the elements and wild animals. There are many scenes of physical jeopardy, with the children threatened by snakes, feral pigs, and other beasts. Strong language is limited to a few instances of "dammit" and "damn." Cort and Liza clearly have crushes on each other but little time to express their feelings.

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What's the story?

Now that his mother has abandoned his family, 13-year-old Cort depends on his swamp-guide father for stability. But when his dad makes the mistake of leaving their houseboat just before the arrival of a hurricane, Cort finds himself responsible for the safety of two other children, his friend Liza and her younger sister, Francie. When Francie disappears into the swamp, Cort and Liza follow, and soon all three children are fighting for their lives. One catastrophe follows another as the hurricane worsens, and Cort must decide the best course of action if any of them is to survive the night.

Is it any good?

A great choice for reluctant readers who like human-vs.-nature conflicts described in clear, compelling language, this tale of three children lost in a hurricane packs a wallop. Watt Key (Alabama Moon) clearly knows his way around the Gulf Coast, and in TERROR AT BOTTLE CREEK, he describes life on the edge of a swamp with sensitivity and precision. The mundane details of the early chapters ground the intense action of the later ones. The narrative tension mounts steadily, and Key ends most chapters with a cliffhanger to keep readers riveted. Extreme weather is now a regular part of the news, and this novel ably demonstrates how people can work together to survive it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how to plan for a natural disaster. What precautions can you take together that will make you and your property safer?

  • Why are stories about natural disasters popular? What's fun about reading survival stories?

  • How do you learn to forgive someone who has abandoned you in a time of need?

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