Saturday, February 22, 2014


Donna Jo Napoli is the acclaimed and award-winning author of many novels, both fantasies and contemporary stories. She won the Golden Kite Award for Stones in Water in 1997. Her novel Zel was named an American Bookseller Pick of the Lists, a Publishers Weekly Best Book, a Bulletin Blue Ribbon, and a School Library Journal Best Book, and a number of her novels have been selected as ALA Best Books. She is a professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.

Napoli applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Storm, and reported the following:
Sebah, the sixteen year old main character, is living an ordinary rural life in Canaan when rain comes. And comes and comes. The nearby stream turns into a rushing river and flashfloods. She makes it to a ledge cut in a cliff side in time, with her swamp kit, Screamer, clinging to the back of her neck. The rain keeps coming and Sebah is forced to climb higher until she reaches a mountain alm, from which she goes more gradually uphill now. Along the way she meets Aban, a boy around her age, who becomes her partner, living in a tall cedar tree, until the waters reach so high they must take to a raft on the endless sea.

Something hits their raft: it’s a rope that drags through the water behind an enormous ark. Sebah and Screamer manage to climb the rope, but Aban is lost in the deluge. When Sebah enters the porthole the rope hangs from, she finds herself in a cage with bonobos, aardvarks, and duikers. The bonobos seem to adopt her in a genial way, but the ark is filled with mystery and misery, its inhabitants locked away, uncomprehending, without the solace of familiarity and predictability. The man who feeds them is clearly taken to be dangerous by the animals, so Sebah hides from him for the present, nestled in a hay nest.

On page 69 it’s night and Sebah found that a burst of laughter from her led to a lion’s roar in return. Now she feels vibrations in the wood floor – and she knows whatever animal lives…

Page 69:
below was sending a warning to others to watch out for the lion.

How many animals are there on this ship? And what types? And where, where, where is Screamer?

What kind of poles hold in those lions? They have to be strong. The food-monger wouldn’t dare walk on this deck if the poles weren’t reliable. Unless he carries a weapon. Still, no weapon is secure against a lion. And no one could protect against two lions together. Why didn’t I see them before? Where exactly is their cage?

And where is Screamer?


Something slams against the side of the ship from the outside. I am tempted to go to the side hole and lean out to see. I know it’s raining. It’s always raining. But there’s a moon glow tonight too. It slides around the air near the side hole. I could see something if I looked. But if I move, the lion may rumble again.

He’s a bully. The air on this deck is husky with the noises of nocturnal creatures. But he doesn’t rumble at them. He rumbles at me. He knew my laugh made me different. He senses my fear.

Well, I won’t be bullied. I sit up quickly and crawl to the side hole.

The lion roars.

I freeze.

Something furry pushes against my thigh. I cry out and roll away. But it’s Screamer, just Screamer, wonderful Screamer.
Visit Donna Jo Napoli's website.

Writers Read: Donna Jo Napoli (June 2009).

--Marshal Zeringue