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Parents' Guide to

The Great Fire

By Tanya Smith, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 11+

Spellbinding account of disaster.

Book Jim Murphy History 1995
The Great Fire Poster Image

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Anecdotes enliven this fact-based narrative chronicling the 1871 blaze that ate up the wooden streets, sidewalks, and structures of Chicago and left most of the city in ruins. Moving along briskly as it weaves eyewitness recollections with solid research, this is a surprisingly quick and enjoyable read. Much of the enjoyment springs from the vivid recollections of eyewitnesses, including 12-year-old Claire Innes, who got lost in the chaos. Alone, Claire wandered the chaotic city, and she later described the sad sights she encountered: "Several men gathered around a charred lump, and each man shaking his head sadly."

The visuals, while authentic, are somewhat disappointing. Dating from the time of the fire, the sepia-toned photographs and drawings are historically compelling but may seem underwhelming to kids. The exception is a recurring simple grid map that effectively marks the fire's march across the city.

Book Details

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