Lyla: Through my eyes by Fleur Beale
Through My Eyes: Natural Disaster Zones series. Allen and
Unwin, 2018. ISBN 9781760113780
(Age: 11+) Highly recommended. Themes: Earthquakes, New Zealand, Disasters, Emergency services. 2011 saw a major earthquake in the south island of New Zealand, shattering the lives of the inhabitants of Christchurch, killing 185 people from all over the world and leaving an immeasurable damage bill.
Against this, Fleur Beale has written a highly involving tale of one family and its reaction to this event, bringing in their friends, relatives and neighbours to give a reality that is unsurpassed. I shuddered with them at each aftershock, and marveled as children voted on the magnitude of the shock, or people went to their emergency kits because there was no water in the pipes. It's the little things that many people do not think about when an earthquake occurs, that Beale has drawn these seamlessly into the drama of this group's survival. When Lyla reaches home, walking from the city, she surveys the neighbourhood, helping some, leaving notes for others to come to her house. She gathers mattresses for beds, raids the freezer for food to cook on the bbq and retrieves codeine for Matt who is severely bruised.
All the while she fields questions from people who ring on the landline, looks after the two young children from next door, while their mother goes into the CBD to help, and waits for her parents, one a policeman, one a nurse, to come home.
She is a stalwart of emergency procedure and organisation, recalling effortlessly the drills they have all undertaken at school, putting into practice things learnt from the most recent earthquake, a few months before. As bits of Christchurch still shudder and fall around them, power is restored in some areas, food is distributed and Lyla takes a major risk to retrieve a friend's laptop.
The course of the few days sees Lyla reconsider her arrogant neighbour Matt, a rugby fanatic in year eleven, who despite his swollen ankle and shoulder, helps her where he can, offering support and encouragement.
Her school is red stickered, and many of her friends' families have decided to move away, so Lyla often feels alone until lessons are resumed at another school, being bussed there in the afternoons, with her classes piggybacking at the other school.
But months after the earthquake, Lyla falters and it is up to others to come to her aid, and we see through Beale's story just how emotional aftershocks can take hold.
Teacher's notes are available.