Here we are again with another installment of “31 Days of Children’s Books”. Guess what happens this time next week? Well, Halloween. Yes, that’s true. But it will also be the last day of this series. Who’s counting? ME!!! This challenge has been…a challenge. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, though. And some great books to share between now and then.
So, this week I am sharing books with female main characters. Today’s book, Firegirl by Tony Abbott, is kind of the exception to that.
Firegirl has two main characters, a girl and a boy, which ensures the book’s appeal to both audiences. Tom is a self-described “sweaty, fat kid” who kind of drifts along generally unnoticed by the other seventh grade students. His long friendship with Jeff is taxed when Jeff’s becomes preoccupied with his parents’ separation. And his crush on the popular Courtney is unreciprocated.
Enter Jessica. A new student to St. Catherine’s. But not your typical new girl. Jessica has been badly burned in a fire. She and her family have moved to town so that Jessica can undergo skin grafting at the area hospital. Mrs. Tracy attempts to prepare her students for the arrival of their new classmate. But Jessica is much more disfigured than the children expected and their reaction to Jessica is often less than kind.
This is the story of a friendship that tentatively buds then blooms between Tom and Jessica during the few weeks they are in class together. Abbott’s examination of the effect of Jessica’s presence on the entire class is candid and powerful. The other children’s reaction to Jessica is portrayed accurately without sugar-coating. Fear, cruelty, indifference. But Tom has always felt like an invisible outsider, himself, and his empathetic reaction to Jessica’s condition becomes the basis for their friendship.
While Firegirl doesn’t end with a happily ever after, the lives of Tony Abbott’s well-drawn characters and the lives of the book’s readers, will be forever changed.
I was able to find several literature guides to accompany a study of this 2007-2008 Texas Bluebonnet Master List nominee. This book was also on the Ohio State book list and there is a summary of the book, author’s resources and discussion questions available through Read Ohio, here.
Kids’ Wings offers an entire unit to use with Firegirl, including research links, a bibliography of books about coping with problems, and books on fire safety. Several of the books listed on the Kids’ Wings bibliography are books I have shared with my students. Good Luck, Mrs. K. by Louise Borden and One-Handed Catch by M.J. Auch, both past Bluebonnet nominees.
Hugs and kisses,