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To Sleep with the Angels: The Story of a Fire Paperback – October 1, 1998


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To Sleep with the Angels: The Story of a Fire + Remembrances of the Angels: 50th Anniversary Reminiscences of the Fire No One Can Forget
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Ivan R. Dee; 1 edition (October 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156663217X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566632171
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (170 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #107,184 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

On December 1, 1958, a fire at Our Lady of the Angels School in Chicago killed 92 pupils, most between the ages of nine and 12, and three nuns. This deeply affecting account of that tragedy by two Illinois journalists recreates the horror that destroyed a school and parish. The causes of the tragedy were manifold: outdated fire laws that permitted an edifice built before 1908 to escape a code passed in 1949 to insure safer schools; severe overcrowding; delay in reporting the fire; nuns ordering their pupils to pray rather than try to escape. Nor did municipal and archdiocesan officials help matters, their philosophy being that the fire was best forgotten; when a former student admitted to setting the blaze, they tried to conceal his confession. One positive result of the fire were the safety improvements made in 16,500 U.S. school buildings within a year. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Cowan, an independent journalist in the Chicago area, and Kuenster, a former reporter and columnist for the Chicago Daily News, fashion a gripping story from the events surrounding the tragic 1958 fire that swept through Chicago's Our Lady of the Angels elementary school. The fire, which left 92 elementary school children and three nuns dead, had profound effects on surviving students, parents, the surrounding neighborhood, and the city of Chicago. The tragedy spawned a nationwide school fire-safety program that is now often taken for granted. Cowan and Kuenster piece together a moving narrative based on the eyewitness accounts of surviving children, parents, firemen, doctors, nurses, and arson investigators. Although appropriate for any collection that serves general readers, this book is particularly recommended for Chicago-area libraries.
Robert J. Favini, Bentley Coll. Lib., Waltham, Mass.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

The book was very well written.
Jeff
I have read the book "To Sleep With the Angels" and to this day, i cannot get through the whole book without getting sad.
Melinda Jarmusz
Ms. Mc Bride was a fire victim suffereing severe burns.
firepros@aol.com

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Parker Benchley VINE VOICE on November 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Many books have been written about real-life tragedies, and in this sense, Cowan and Kuenster's book is no different. However, there is a thin line in these type of books between boring the reader by burying the human aspect of the story with an overload of factual material and becoming nothing more than a non-fiction hankie weeper. Quite a few books have disappointed me in the past by straying to either one side or the other. Not so with this one. It is a solid piece of reporting that does not lose the human dimension of the tragedy. Nor does it obscure the investigation and the facts with too much emphasis on the human dimension.
The fire at Our Lady of the Angels was one of the worst tragedies to strike America, made even more so in that the vast majority of its victims were innocent children. The authors follow the story from the day it occured to the fire itself and the heroic efforts of the fire department to the later delegation of blame and recriminations from what was seen as a bureaucratic conspiracy. In doing so they manage to bring the reader into the story not merely as a spectator but almost as a fellow reporter, sharing not only facts, but also conjectures and whispers plus personal items about the victims, always careful always to straddle the line between objectivity and thje trap of a "crusading" journalism. By letting the story speak for itself, they bring it home all the more forcefully, to where no one who reads it will remain unaffected.
This book should also serve as a warning against the false sense of security that this sort of thing cannot happen again. There are still many schools, public and private, at risk, and this is a book that should be read by every parent with children still in school, and not only during Fire Prevention Week.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By N. Donohoe on December 7, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book took me back to a painful time in otherwise happy years as a child. In December of 1958 I was a third grader at St. Peter Canisius School, just northwest of OLA. I can remember watching the news bulletins on television, my mother weeping and praying and the unbelievable sadness at the sight of the dozens of small coffins. The changes in school fire codes were swift. Before the end of the school year, we were on half-day shifts because our basement classroom (somewith block glass windows) did not meet fire code. The authors of this book have brought to light that the 93 OLA martyrs left a legacy of change and improved safety for school children across the country and even around the world. I, too, was compelled to go back to the old neighborhoods - down North Avenue, past what used to be St. Anne's on Thomas Street where I was born, to Avers and Iowa. The authors remark how not even a plaque on the property remembers those who died. Even at this late date, I hope something will be done to remedy that injustice. I could not stop reading this book - even once past the horror of the actual fire, the investigative reporting was clear, concise, riveting and brings answers to so many questions. A must read, especially for Chicagoans.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 7, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I was a fourth grade student at Our Lady of the Angels at the time of the fire. Room 210. When I saw this book in the store, it immediately took me back to 1958. I find it very difficult to express in words how well these men have put down on paper what happened that day. I commend them and thier years of diligence putting this story in print. I have been in the fire service for 23 years (pure coincidence) and my heart and soul go out to those firemen that had to work that infamous day. The only closure this book was not able to provide is that I never was able to personally thank the fireman that pulled me to safety from room 210.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 6, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I found TO SLEEP WITH THE ANGELS one of the most fascinating books I have read in decades. Now a college professor, I was a teenager in New York when the fire took place. I was struck by the senseless horror of it: it stayed in my mind for years and when I read TO SLEEP WITH THE ANGELS I finally could learn all that I had now known about the work. I actually went to Chicago, met some of those survivors of the fire, went to the old neighborhood, visited cemeteries and relived my own past and could learn about that horrendous fire. I have never done anything like this as a result of reading a book and I have, believe me, literally read thousands of books in my long teaching career. Hats off to the authors: they have that unique talent that all professionals strive for-- to make History come alive both for those who were involved in it (in whatever way) and for those who never experienced the event. This is the BEST book on the subject of current History that I have ever read. I cannot speak too highly of this work and I recommend it to anyone who wants to become involved in one of the most heartbreaking events of our age. I have reread the book six times and plan to do it again. My students are fascinated by the work and many have begun independent research work on the fire, due only to the skill of the writers of TO SLEEP WITH THE ANGELS.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I am a teacher of English and history at a high school and a junior college. I have a son who is studying to be a professional fire fighter. In fact, I bought this book for him but read it first. This story is gripping and powerful. It is also beautifully written and it is clear the authors have a close affinity with the countless victims of this nightmare--the children, the nuns, the families, the fire fighters and all who suffered as a result of this catastrophe. To read this book is to go back in time to 1958. I was a student in a catholic elementary school at the time and this book captures the spirit of parochial schools of that era. Their tribute to the nuns who gave the last full measure for their children is overwhelming. In fact, it hs been a long time since a history has made me gasp aloud and I have to admit that I felt the tears well up as I read the accounts of tragedy, loss and heroics. The book captures a moment in time and stands as a tribute to those who died so young.
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