From Publishers Weekly
For more than a century, poor Mrs. O'Leary and her cow have shouldered the blame for Chicago's infamous Great Fire of 1871. Now Murphy (The Boys' War; Across America on an Emigrant Train) lays bare the facts concerning one of the biggest disasters in American history, in the process exculpating the maligned bovine and her owner. Murphy demonstrates that the fire could have been contained: he unfolds a tale of botched communication, class discrimination (the fire began in a working-class section of the city and only later spread to the wealthier areas) and plain old bad luck. Strategically quoting the written accounts of witnesses-who include a 12-year-old girl and a newspaper editor-Murphy both charts the 31-hour spread of the fire and conveys the atmosphere in the streets. This volume, beautifully printed in sepia tones, contains historic photos, engravings and newspaper clippings on nearly every page. Especially helpful are maps placed at intervals throughout the book that represent the progress of the fire. Engrossing. Ages 8-12.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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From School Library Journal
Grade 5-12-Jim Murphy's primary source-based account (Scholastic, 1995) of the October 1871 conflagration that virtually wiped Chicago from the map is fully voiced by Taylor Mali. Weaving together technical details with firefighters', journalists', and ordinary citizens' accounts of their personal physical and emotional traumas as they unfolded across the 24 hours of the fire, this version of the long-mythologized event carefully repairs earlier historians' class- and gender-biased reports. Modern listeners will not be surprised to hear that some men fled and some women hauled traditionally man-sized loads in the face of the flames, but they will be fascinated by how very modern some of the responses to the disaster seem: the mayor of Chicago, for instance, called for help-and received it-from fire departments as far away as Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Murphy carefully explains how specific mistakes led to the fire becoming so quickly out of control, as well as how political precepts of the era worked to keep these facts from public view. This is excellent social history as well as suspenseful storytelling. The diversity and multitude of personal accounts is presented in both text and voice so that there is no sense of frustration in the changes of viewpoints, but rather a better appreciation of the event as a dynamic experience from which we still have much to learn.Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.