Kirkus Reviews QR Code


Rising From the Ashes

From the History Comics series

by Kate Hannigan ; illustrated by Alex Graudins

Pub Date: June 30th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-250-17425-3
Publisher: First Second

Two young eyewitnesses link watershed events in Chicago’s history: its massive fire in 1871 and the Columbian Exposition in 1893.

Separated from their parents, Franny and John Patrick Fitzgerald flee amid panic-stricken crowds—and also witness flaring prejudice against the city’s Irish immigrants—as the fire destroys one neighborhood after another. Both then reappear 22 years later as young parents to marvel over the Ferris wheel and other wonders of an exposition that was organized to highlight their city’s brilliant recovery and promise. Hannigan sticks closely to historical records in tracing the causes and course of the fire (no, it was not the fault of either Mrs. O’Leary or her cow) as well as the architectural and infrastructure improvements wrought in its wake and the fair’s artistic and technological highlights. If the dialogue sometimes assumes a declamatory cast (“There are so many new immigrants moving into the city—Greek, Italian, Jewish, Polish”), Graudins overlays the infodumps with small, intimate panels depicting period-clad people with appealingly open expressions (and, often, puppies in tow) in accurately drawn settings. Crowd scenes frequently feature both white characters like Franny and John Patrick and people of color…except at the Exposition, from which, as one character pointedly if anachronistically puts it, “African Americans” were excluded. Simultaneously publishing in the History Comics series, Chris Schweizer’s The Roanoke Colony: America’s First Mystery (with coloring by Liz Trice Schweizer) works period sources and modern archaeology into a snarky account of the early settlement’s decidedly checkered career delivered by two local observers from the Secotan Nation. Both volumes close with source notes; students of the Windy City also get a modern tour and a timeline.

A fictive plotline adds a strong “you are there” feel to this informative account.

(bibliography, maps, additional facts) (Graphic historical fiction. 9-12)