Monday, October 29, 2012
Review: The Great Fire
By Jim Murphy, read by Taylor Mali
Published 2003 by AudioGo
Even if you're not from Chicago and aren't a history buff, chances are still good that you've heard of the Great Fire of 1871. Most likely, you've also heard of Mrs. O'Leary and her cow, the supposed cause of the fire that devastated the city, leaving 100,000 residents homeless. Here is the story through the eyes of several survivors.
I like reading non-fiction, and I'd like to read more. I especially like reading juvenile and young adult non-fiction because it's usually filled with lesser-known tidbits (kids love trivia) and I always feel like I learn a surprising amount. Murphy is a very well-respected author of non-fiction for young people, winning a Newbery Honor with this title in 1996. I downloaded the audiobook on a whim, figuring it was a good way to get some more non-fiction into my rotation. My only problem with the format is true for all non-fiction I've listened to rather than read - I miss the pictures. I like having photographs and illustrations in my non-fiction books to give me a context for the story - they add to putting the story in a time and place. Aside from this format issue, though, I didn't find any faults with the book. Murphy has crafted a gripping account of a horrific tragedy, sure to get kids interested in history. This book has lots of appeal to readers of adventure and mystery novels as Murphy tells the story in a suspenseful way and slowly brings all the pieces together that created the perfect storm - all the elements that colluded to make this fire as devastating as it was. Reading this book makes me feel woefully unprepared to make a Newbery prediction - I've barely read any of the fiction that I think could be in contention and haven't even looked at the non-fiction. This would be a great work to recommend to kids who think they don't like non-fiction - the story is told so well.