________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 5 . . . . October 29, 2004


Fires! (True Stories From the Edge).

Tanya Lloyd Kyi.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2004.
106 pp., pbk. & cl., $9.95 (pbk.), $18.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55037-876-7 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55037-877-5 (cl.).

Subject Headings:
Fires-History-Juvenile literature.
Disasters-History-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Carole Reeve.

***1/2 /4


The smoke alarm blares in the middle of the night. You wake to the acrid smell of smoke. Fire! Your mother or father pounds on your door. Hurry! How will you escape? What will you take with you?

The latest title in the "True Stories From the Edge" series continues providing young readers with fascinating stories. Tanya Lloyd Kyi, the author of Truth and Canadian Girls Who Rocked the World, presents interesting historical facts and information about how modern fire fighting came to be. The stories really come to life and let readers imagine what it would be like to be caught in a burning blaze.

     Some of the fires Kyi chronicles were the result of human error. The Chernobyl Fire in 1986 was the result of an experiment to see if a reactor would still operate during a power outage. The workers didn't follow regulations, and, as a result, the reactor exploded. In 1911, a discarded cigarette fell into a pile of fabric at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York, causing 145 to die. Unfortunately, many of the workers were trapped on their floors since the owners often locked them in to prevent early departures and theft. An impatient captain, traveling in the wrong shipping lane, caused the Halifax Harbour explosion in 1917.

     Other fires, such as the Kuwait oil fires in 1991, were deliberately set. A man suffering from mental illness set himself on fire on a subway train in South Korea: he survived the fire, but 196 others did not. In Indonesia, farmers routinely set fires to clear their fields for crops but these fires are also destroying the surrounding jungle. The smoke was so thick in 1997 that "Western doctors said that just breathing the air was equal to smoking 80 cigarettes each day."

     Kyi also describes the London fire of 1666 where the Mayor of the city failed to take charge, and, as a result, 80% of London was destroyed. In addition, Kyi writes about the Hindenburg fire of 1937, the Chicago fire of 1871, and the Vienna Ring Theatre fire in 1881.

     Readers will be enthralled with these real-life tragedies and Kyi's descriptive writing style. A list of selected sources and an index are included.

Highly Recommended.

Carole Reeve is the Assistant Branch Head at Osborne Public Library in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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