Sadly, Fire Season is a thing these days, and not just in California, where forest fires have names, just like hurricanes. You might live in an area turned upside down (possibly literally) by hurricane Henri or Ida, and my heart goes out to everyone affected. Where I live, we have #Caldor, #Dixie, and #Tamarack fires causing evacuations for thousands upon thousands, acres of destruction, displaced and injured wildlife, and smoke so thick you’d think the fog rolled in. (I wish!) Unfortunately, wildfires are raging around the world.
I highly recommend these 4 picture books + a middle grade to help start conversations about such way-too-relevant firestorm experiences, with kids of all ages, and possibly add a new perspective, or much needed healing and hope.
I’ve been thinking about this middle grade novel in verse by Newbery Medal recipient Linda Sue Park a lot lately–especially while packing our car in case we received evacuation orders.
THE ONE THING YOU’D SAVE can be read any time of year, truly, and the narrative poems can be read separately if you have younger students–but it belongs in this post because, sometimes we don’t realize the things we truly treasure until they are threatened or gone. Not only do the poems piece together in a compelling story, the premise and poems themselves make fabulous writing prompts and discussion starters.
“The class’s camaraderie and caring spirit comes through clearly, poised to inspire thoughtful classroom discussion.” —Publishers Weekly, STARRED review
New Perspectives–and Hope
Gianna Marino’s WE WILL LIVE IN THIS FOREST AGAIN is told from the perspective of a deer–as well as a coyote, bear, crow, and mountain lion– as they realize the danger and race to outrun a wildfire. “Hot cinders spun back and forth, across the hills and through the canyons…fire snapped at our fur and feathers and hooves and paws….”
“The poetic text is powerful and effective at building tension and then providing hope. The color palette perfectly conjures the before, during, and after of the fire while Marino’s lyrical text from the deer’s view point gives it context. It is a potent combination.” —School Library Journal, Starred Review
“Inspired by her own experiences in the 2017 fires in California, Marino tells this story in the nostalgic but also hopeful voice of one of the forest-dwellers . . . The yellows and greens of the forest are overtaken by fiery reds and oranges, which turn to sooty gray, then warm brown, with, finally, shoots of green. Reassurance about the resilience of the natural world.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
Long after the fire has been contained (And we hope that is SOON, dear friends.), young readers–victims and evacuees, or even those who watched the firestorm reported on the news– will need to talk about it. BIG BEAR WAS NOT THE SAME, which focuses on two bears after the fire, is about healing and dealing with the trauma they have experienced.
An excellent tool for counselors, mental health professionals, and social workers–as well as teachers and parents.
“Rowland uses a pair of bear best friends, Big Bear, who is a grizzly, and Little Bear, who is a black bear, to illustrate trauma and trauma responses, describing what happens after Big Bear survives a forest fire. Not quite understanding why his big, brave friend is acting so differently, Little Bear does his best to be supportive and help Big Bear cope…An accessible, age-appropriate primer that sheds light on trauma and PTSD.” —Publishers Weekly
“Both an appreciation of nature and an ultimately hopeful reminder about our symbiotic relationship with it.” —KIRKUS
This unique, lyrical story from Henry Herz and Mercè López is told from the perspective of the smoke.
Smoke dissipates quickly, but this poetic text will linger.–Starred KIRKUS
I love how Smoke, the narrator, speaks in mesmerizing riddles:
“Herz presents a provocative and unique look at the lifecycle and benefits of smoke throughout the millennia. Lopez’s multimedia artwork further illuminates the ethereal nature of smoke as it drifts and dances across the page.”
– John Rocco, author/illustrator of the Caldecott Honor book BLACKOUT
Learn more about I AM SMOKE from this interview with author Henry Herz.