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THE GREAT FIRE by Jim Murphy


by Jim Murphy

Age Range: 8 - 12

Pub Date: April 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-590-47267-4
Publisher: Scholastic

 A veritable cinematic account of the catastrophe that decimated much of Chicago in 1871, forcing more than 100,000 people from their homes. Murphy (Night Terrors, 1993) tells the story through the eyes of several survivors. He focuses on real-life people such as the O'Learys, in whose barn the fire began; James Hildreth, a politician who thought the best way to stop the fire was to blow up houses in its path and create a ``fire break,''; Julia Lemo, a widow who found the strength to save her five children and elderly parents; Joseph Chamberlin, a reporter for the Chicago Evening Post; and the courageous Claire Innes, a 12-year- old who survived despite being separated from her family in the fleeing mob. These characters serve as dramatic focal points as the fire sweeps across the city, their stories illuminated by fascinating archival photographs and maps outlining the spread of fire. Murphy assesses the conflicts between rich and poor that both fueled and followed the conflagration. With his conclusion that the tensions between the haves and the have-nots in large cities continued for decades, eventually culminating in the civil unrest of this century, he puts the incident in perspective, giving it stunning immediacy for contemporary readers. (bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)