The Great Chicago Fire: Rising from the Ashes: History Comics, Book 2

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
The Great Chicago Fire: Rising from the Ashes: History Comics, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Kids face deadly fire in vivid, informative graphic novel.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The Great Chicago Fire provides a wealth of factual material about the famous 1871 event, including a timeline, a list of noteworthy sites, and maps.

Positive Messages

In times of disaster, neighbors can band together and help each other. Time heals trauma, and better days are usually ahead.

Positive Role Models & Representations

J.P. And Franny face danger with bravery and calm. Although they lose almost all their possessions, they don't lose hope or the ability to feel compassion for others.


Some scary events take place along the children's route. A horse collapses and dies. Buildings fall down, including that of the children's aunt and uncle. Three hundred people die, but the book does not show people in mortal distress.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some adult gamblers are shown smoking in a barn.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Great Chicago Fire: Rising from the Ashes is a fact-based graphic novel that follows an Irish American brother and sister as they try to escape the famous inferno of 1871 and reunite with their parents. Author Kate Hannigan and illustrator Alex Graudins balance history and adventure. The cartoonish art style prevents the material from become too overwhelming. Three hundred people die, but the book does not show people in mortal distress.

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What's the story?

As THE GREAT CHICAGO FIRE: RISING FORM THE ASHES opens, J.P. and his sister, Franny, are doing their evening chores when they discover their aunt and uncle have ridden away without taking one of their puppies. Fearing the pup won't survive without its mother, they chase after them, only to be caught up in a devastating fire. Will they be able save themselves as much of the city burns to the ground?

Is it any good?

Comics excel at depicting disasters, and this fact-based graphic novel presents a kid's-eye view of a devastating calamity. In The Great Chicago Fire: Rising from the Ashes, author Kate Hannigan and illustrator Alex Graudins capture the action and suspense of the firestorm, showing people from all walks of life as they fight to survive. J.P. And Franny are likable main characters, thoroughly human in the ways they react to the disaster. Somehow, the quest to save a puppy in jeopardy seems a little too on-the-nose. But that choice may not bother young readers who want some kind of homey anchor amid the scary chaos. The creators of The Great Chicago Fire take pains to get the details right, and young history buffs will enjoy learning about a disaster that still resonates today.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Great Chicago Fire mixes fact and fiction to show full extent of that event. Why do you think the author add a fictional family to the story?

  • Even today, people believe Mrs. O'Leary's cow started the fire. How do urban legends grow? Do you think O'Leary was scapegoated because she was Irish? Why is it important not to spread rumors?

  • How do people treat each other in the middle of a disaster? Can you tell right away who will be courageous and who will be cowardly?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history

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