The Night of the Twisters

Written by Ivy Ruckman, The Night of the Twisters is a popular choice for reading lists because it’s a fascinating story that injects the elements of adventure into a true story.


The story follows the adventures of 12-year-old Dan Hatch, his best friend Arthur, and his 2-year-old half-brother Ryan when a freak tornado passes over their small Nebraska town. After the tornado, Dan and his friend leave the rubble of his house and begin searching for their friends and family. The story takes on an interesting twist as Dan has to care for baby Ryan, whom he doesn’t really like.


The Night of the Twisters is set around the real life events of June 3, 1980, when seven separate tornadoes touched down near Grand Island, Nebraska on the same night. The main characters of the book live in a fictional town known as Blainsworth in Nebraska.

Main Characters

Dan Hatch : Main character of the story. His relationship with his stepfather Jack is strained as they don’t seem to like each other much. Dan’s also conflicted about his feelings for his half-brother who he feels has become more important to his mother than him.

Laura : Dan’s and Ryan’s mother. She divorced Dan’s father and married Jack years later. After the birth of Ryan, Dan relationship with her becomes more awkward.

Jack : Dan’s stepfather. Jack and Dan’s relationship is not positive. While sensitive Dan is more inclined to the arts, Jack constantly pushes Dan to be an athlete.

Ryan : Dan’s 2-year-old half-brother. Although he is never cruel to baby Ryan, Dan keeps a distance from him. However, Ryan loves Dan very much and he tries hard to get his brother’s attention.

Arthur : Dan’s best friend. Arthur has two sisters and spends quite a lot of time at Dan’s house.

Major Themes

The real focus of the story is Dan and his relationships with those around him. In the beginning, Dan is feeling almost like an outsider in his family because his mother and stepfather have a “new son” to dote on. As he takes responsibility for his friend and brother, Dan slowly realizes that he is part of a family that loves him very much.

Summary and Analysis

The book starts off with Dan forgetting that he was supposed to walk his grandmother’s dog. When he arrives at her house, he finds Jack already there to bring Grandma Belle and her dog to the vet. After receiving a lecture from his stepfather, Dan heads home.

He arrives just before his mother leaves for work. Later that night, Jack sees a tornado warning and he leaves the house to make sure his mother is alright. Meanwhile, Laura ends up trapped at her diner because she can’t get a ride home, leaving Dan at home with Ryan and Arthur.

Sometime after Jack has left, the town’s tornado sirens begin to sound. Dan quickly gets himself, Arthur, and Ryan into the basement. The tornado hits the house, destroying it, but the boys are unharmed. They then decide to head into town and try to find their parents and Dan’s grandmother. On the way, they meet up with Arthur’s sisters, Stacey and Veronica. Dan takes the wheel of their truck but they are stopped at a checkpoint. Instead of getting out of the truck like Arthur, the four of them drive through the barricade.

Dan finds his grandmother and gets her into the truck. They then find Jack and help some fireman get Jack free. Dan and Jack continue into town looking for Laura. The diner she works at was destroyed, but they continue looking. As they’re looking, two more tornadoes hit the down. Meanwhile, Jack and Dan have reunited with everyone at the shelter and they keep looking for Laura.

When Dan hears Jack getting into a car to find Laura, he sneaks into it with Ryan because he doesn’t want to be left behind. They drive back to their house. Laura and her friends drive up as well and the family is reunited. Immediately, a tornado touches down nearby and everyone runs to the nearest overpass. At the end of the story, the sun comes up over the small family that has survived the storm.

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