FIRE!! I Survived the Great Chicago Fire, 1871 by Lauren Tarshis
"Amazing, isn't it?" said Mr. Morrow, smiling. "When I was born, Chicago was just a little town on the marsh. Today, Chicago is is one of the the most important cities in the world."
"It's beautiful," said Mama.
But suddenly Mama's expression darkened. "Does the sky look odd to you"" she asked, her brow wrinkling.
"Must be a fire," Mr. Morrow said matter-of-factly. "We're having fires practically every night now. The city is bone dry."
The word fire sent a flash of fear across Mama's face.
"Don't worry," Mr. Morrow said, giving Mama a reassuring pat. "Chicago has one of the best fire departments in the country."
Oscar had not wanted to leave their farm in Minnesota, the one Papa and Mama had worked so hard to build. But Papa was dead, and Mama had married Joseph Morrow. The farm was sold and the new family boarded the train to begin their new life together in Chicago. "We'll have dinner at the Palmer House, and the fire will be over before we finish supper," Joseph Morrow had said.
But when Oscar is separated from Mama and Mr. Morrow on the busy streets, Oscar finds himself alone as fire begin exploding all around him. Sparks rain down, burning his skin and threatening to set his clothes on fire, and the explosions spread like the prairie wildfire he remembers from Minnesota. Oscar comes to the aid of a little girl and her three-year-old brother and decides to try to find his parents in the reputedly fireproof Palmer House. But when they finally push their way through the terrified crowds on the streets, they find the Palmer House itself in flames.
A wall of fire roared down the street. The wind gusted, a hot and poisonous blast. A blazing sheet peeled off the fire. It swirled through the air, a flaming twister more horrifying than anything Oscar could have imagined. Oscar stood there, frozen in fear.
Then he heard someone calling his name.
Lauren Tarshis' newest, I Survived #11: I Survived the Great Chicago Fire, 1871 (Scholastic Press, 2015), continues her top-selling fiction series about young Americans who survive historical disasters. Tarshis's taut storytelling and well-researched detail put young readers right in the middle of this event, an epic moment in time that will keep even reluctant readers flying through its 96 pages as Oscar and his new step-father fight their way through the flaming streets and swim the burning river to escape the Great Fire. For readers who want more, such as the historical backstory of the Great Fire, the author provides a question-and-answer section and bibliographic references for further research, including Chicago's noted website on this event.
Other books in the historical fiction I Survived series include I Survived the Destruction of Pompeii, AD 79, I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912, I Survived #8: I Survived the Japanese Tsunami, 2011, and I Survived the Attacks of September 11th, 2001. (I Survived, Book 6)