________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 8 . . . . December 10, 1999

The Prairie Fire The Prairie Fire.

Marilynn Reynolds. Illustrated by Don Kilby.
Victoria, BC: Orca Book Publishers, 1999.
32 pp., cloth, $17.95.
ISBN 1-55143-137-8.

Subject Headings:
Grassland fires-Juvenile fiction.
Frontier and pioneer life-Prairie Provinces-Juvenile fiction.
Self-reliance-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 1 - 5 / Ages 6 - 10.
Review by Valerie Nielsen.

*** 1/2 /4

image One of the most terrifying events early settlers on the prairie had to contend with was the prairie fire. In Marilynn Reynold's latest picture book, young Percy's father tells him "...if a high wind is blowing, that fire will race across the prairie faster than wild horses." That night, Percy dreams of just such a fire, running as fast as a galloping horse straight toward their sod house. The next morning, although Percy begs to join his father as he plows a huge fireguard to protect the house and barn, his mother tells him he must wait until he is older to help plow. Instead, he is relegated to the barn to feed the family's workhorse, Maud. Out on the prairie that same afternoon, Percy catches sight of an ominous bluish-black cloud on the horizon and realizes it is the dreaded sign of a prairie fire. Percy's opportunity to be a grownup comes as he warns his parents of the approaching fire. Despite his terror and desire to cling to his father, there is no choice for Percy at this moment of crisis but to conquer his fear and take part in the battle to save the family home. As sparks start small fires in the farmyard all around him, Percy manages to keep his head and to prevent Maud from panicking. His courage and ingenuity are rewarded as the prairie fire passes by leaving the homestead unharmed. That evening, Percy's father asks him for help in retrieving the two oxen who have taken shelter in the slough. "It's a job for two men," he says, smiling down at his son.
     Marilynn Reynolds has a gift for bringing stories of earlier times on the prairies to life. Readers will remember Belle's Journey (1993) and The New Land (1997) for their vivid portrayals of characters and settings from a bygone era. Artist Don Kilby, illustrator of Hold On McGinty and The Golden Disk, has done meticulous research into the life of early settlers who made the prairies their home. In each of his many-toned dramatic pencil drawings, the reader will find a multitude of authentic details, making The Prairie Fire both a fascinating picture book for primary grade children and a valuable information resource for older readers who are studying the prairies as part of their social studies curriculum. Teachers and librarians will find this book a worthwhile addition to their prairie picture book collection.


Valerie Nielsen is a retired teacher-librarian living in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364