FIRESTORM! by Joan Hiatt Harlow


Age Range: 8 - 12
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In the Chicago of 1871, 12-year-old Poppy lives in the literal underworld—one of the old buildings left to rot beneath the now-elevated town. Abandoned by her mother eight years ago, she lives with a thief and her daughters, picking pockets for a living. A chance encounter with 13-year-old Justin, the son of a jeweler, gives her an improbable entry into a better life—Justin’s pious older sister offers Poppy clothing and food and encourages her to consider herself a friend of the family. Poppy’s thieving compatriots threaten to kill Justin’s pet goat if Poppy won’t help them rob the jewelry store, endangering her escape. The Great Chicago Fire forms a roaring climax to a story that lacks a central problem or any internal integrity. Every relationship wilts under overwrought sentimentality, none of the characters rises above two dimensions and if someone would strike the exclamation-point key from Harlow’s keyboard they would be doing readers a favor. As in Secret of the Night Ponies (2009), the author takes an interesting point of history and wastes it entirely. (Historical fiction. 8-12)
Pub Date: Nov. 2nd, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4169-8485-6
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: McElderry
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2010


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