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Wildfire! Hardcover – September 23, 2004
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From School Library Journal
Grade 3-4–Ben, 10, has lived with his grandparents and great-grandmother for six years, following the death of his parents. Hill vividly describes his rural Floridian home, from the caring neighbors and shopkeepers to the flora, fauna, foods, and the heat. The woods are filled with the smoky haze from area forest fires, thwarting plans for Fourth of July fireworks. To impress Elliot, who moved from the city and belittles country life, and others, Ben agrees to light one firecracker, an event that seems out of character for him but may spark discussion about peer pressure. The light and noise drive Elliot's new puppy into the woods, sending the boys on an exciting chase to retrieve him. As night falls they realize they are lost and that there is a fire nearby, likely started by the firecracker. Ben uses common sense in the absence of flashlight, moonlight, or paths, guiding them through three miles of dense woods away from sirens and toward the eventual sound of his neighbors' ringing bells. Experienced hikers may find this episode far-fetched. In a pat ending, Elliot announces that he is not ready for the responsibility of a dog, and Ben is overjoyed when he is allowed to keep it. This short chapter book with a large font and full-page pencil drawings may appeal to readers who crave drama and suspense in a contemporary story, but the beginning is a bit slow.–Laura Scott, Farmington Community Library, MI
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Gr. 3-5. Ten-year-old Ben looks forward to celebrating the Fourth of July in Bending Creek, Florida, the village where he lives with his grandparents and great-grandmother. Dry weather and the threat of forest fires have led to the cancellation of fireworks, but when an irksome new boy named Elliot dares him, Ben sets off a rocket anyway. The adventure that follows tests his compassion as well as his courage. The sympathetic main character and his clearly drawn, uncomfortable relationship with Elliot will resonate with many children. The ending provides the satisfaction of justice: Ben deserves both his punishment and his reward. Printed in large type and illustrated with 10 appealing full-page and double-page drawings, this short chapter book is an attractive choice for young readers. Carolyn Phelan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved