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The Great Fire Paperback – August 18, 2010


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The Great Fire + Blizzard!: The Storm That Changed America + An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 (Newbery Honor Book)
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Children's Christmas Books
Visit the Children's Christmas Bookstore to find stories about Santa and his reindeer, cozy books to read by the fire, and sweet stories about family celebrations.

Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 12
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks; 1 edition (August 18, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439203074
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439203074
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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.

More About the Author

Jim Murphy began his career in children's books as an editor, but managed to escape to become a writer, entering a life of personal and creative happiness and enduring financial uncertainty. He's convinced that the latter keeps him coming back to his computer to write every day and feels that a sense of impending doom is the doorway to creativity. He has never counted the number of books he's published (feeling the time and energy is better spent doing research and writing) but guesses that he has over thirty books to his credit. Jim's work has been honored with numerous awards, including two American Llibrary Association Newbery Honor Book Awards, an ALA Robert F. Sibert Award and Sibert Honor Book Award, three National Council of Teachers of English Orbis Pictus Awards, a Boston Globe/Horn Book Award and a BG/HB Honor Book Award, two SCBWI Golden Kite Awards, and been a finalist for the National Book Award. Recently, he was given the ALA Margaret A. Edwards Award for "his significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature."

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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This book is a fun and easy read about history.
Felicia L. Weston
The book weaves together the personal stories of survivors of the fire, which makes for interesting reading.
M. Heiss
It is a journal type book because of its look and feel.
Elyse Palmer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Gillian M. Kendall on August 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This non-fiction historical book for children is the opposite of dry and boring. Murphy brings alive the excitement and terror of Chicago's Great Fire by incorporating dialogue, first-hand accounts, drawings, engravings, and newspaper reports. My ten year old son could not put this book down (and he usually reads only fiction). In the skilled writing of Jim Murphy, The Great Fire of Chicago is at once the story of a city and the story of very different people in that city reacting to sudden disastor. Maps and enticing chapter titles ("3.'The Dogs of Hell Were Upon the Housetops'") lead the reader into the story and I, for one, did not emerge from the book until I reached the end.
*The Great Fire* is an excellent introduction to reading history, as well as being a really good read. My only quandary is this: which of Murphy's books shall I order now? My ten year can't wait to consume the next one.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I read this book to my 4th and 5th grade class and they loved it! I was afraid they might be bored but the writing is fantastic and the story really interested them. They remember all of the details and have been talking about the fire with their friends and parents. We were all really disappointed when we came to the final page. I've even become inspired to read more about the fire.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Don Johnson on July 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The Great Fire of Chicago happened in 1871 on a dry Sunday. The fire began in a barn and swept throughout the city. Through the author Jim Murphy the book takes you through the lives of many people. Eventually it rains, extinguishing the fire and leaving 98,500 people homeless. The Great Fire was one of those books that starts out boring, but if you continue to read or listen to it you'll notice yourself wanting to know what happens next. This book goes through the lives of the people during the fire and shows their hardships through great detail. The Great Fire was caused by many mistakes including a tired fire department. They did all they could, but were unsuccessful because they were unprepared for such a disaster. I would recommend this book to people searching for a good historical non-fiction book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 29, 1998
Format: Hardcover
"Fire, Fire, Fire," shouts Jim Murphy, reconstructing the events surrounding the Great Fire of Chicago in 1871. Weaving together personal accounts and historical facts, he presents a minute-by-minute portrayal of the Fire's destructive path, peoples' unsuccessful attempts to control it, and their consequent flight and rebuilding. Bibliography and sources demonstrate Murphy's in-depth examination of the Great Fire; through text and illustrations, he recreates the Fire for readers. Objectively, chronologically, and sparked with details from diverse personal experiences, Murphy maintains a dangerous, exciting narrative tone. Developing like a novel, chapters titled by individuals' words about the Fire, Murphy's descriptive, concise text, containing phrases like "tar-saturated wood burned like a torch" and "sturdy brick structures had been transformed into blackened skeletons" ends with an impressive index for student reference (p.72 and p.82). Detailed city maps, drawings of the city before and after the Fire, black and white photographs, all thoroughly explained and related to the text, enhance understanding of the Fire's devastation. Murphy's action-packed narrative, with its occasionally difficult vocabulary such as "flames were driving thither with demon precision," seems perfect for ten through thirteen year old audiences. Younger students can learn it as a read aloud or older students can read it independently and both will feel the Fire's heat turning each page until they escape and the flames flicker out.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 18, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The book was a great way to read about history. It wasn't bornig at all. I've already read it about 3 or 4 times it was so good. I wish all of our history books were like that I think it would make school 10 times more fun and not boring.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on April 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In the book The Great Fire the author gives you a lot of amazing facts, pictures, and he lets you see what is going through four main character's eyes. One of the amazing facts this book gives you is that the people who told the fire engines what place to go, miscalculated it three times, and sent the fire engines in wrong directions. One of the great pictures they give you is a lady on postcard posing as Catherine O'Leary milking the cow that started the fire. This book is a great book for young readers like me. I give The Great Fire by Jim Murphy two thumbs up.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
An in depth and fascinating look at the series of events that caused a tiny barn fire to be the root source of an enormous conflagration. Murphy is meticulous with his sources, and he sets up the action of the fire perfectly. Starting small, Murphy details the problems that occurred as the fire grew. The alarms weren't called in time. Firemen were repeatedly sent to the wrong areas to put out the fire. The firemen were exhausted from a different fire they'd put out the night before. The entire city of Chicago was made of wood. People, this is an amazing book. The personal accounts Murphy weaves in and out of the tale are harrowing and wonderfully done. Rather than a painful history lesson, this book makes the story personal and human. Most impressive, to my mind, is the series of chapters Murphy dedicates to the post-fire Chicago rebuilding effort. The author wins my "responsible historian" vote by repeatedly pointing out that the rich were quick to assign blame for this fire on the poor immigrant working class. The O'Learys (who owned the barn where it began) were eventually driven out of their own town by the nasty lies of the press. Chicago comes off looking wonderful after the fire (the spirit of the people was so invigorating!) and the worse for wear (the classism was absolutely ridiculous). My sole objection to this book was that we never heard a peep about the many African Americans who lived in Chicago at this time. Surely they were just as affected by the massive fire as anyone. Yet not a single mention is made of them. Beautiful endnotes follow this account. This book would be excellent read aloud to students. It builds like a novel and draws the reader in. Would pair well with other stories of American disaster (the Titanic for example).
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