________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 10 . . . . January 4, 2007


Running Hot.

David Hill.
Vancouver, BC: Simply Read Books, 2006.
116 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-894965-52-3.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Brianne Grant.

*** /4


Walls of flame glared through the smoke, rising and collapsing and rising again. Bursts of fire glared as resin-filled, super-heated pockets of air exploded. Red and orange threw themselves at trunks, ran up them like burning lizards, swarmed out along branches. Glowing needles flew on the wind; red-hot twigs and cones rained downwards. The speed of it! Garth managed to think. One moment, a tree stood whole against the blazing wall; next moment it was exploding and dying.

Radiant heat surged forty yards across the clearing at them. They ducked and covered their faces. “Pour water on a handkerchief!” Max bawled. “Or on your shirt. Breathe through that!”

Coughing, sputtering, Garth fumbled his water bottle from the pack. Fourteen minutes. The fire bellowed.


Danger, fear, and action pulsate through the gripping story of survival, Running Hot by David Hill. The stolid protagonist, Garth, is working with a group of students from Plains College pruning trees for Treecorp to fund a trip to Hawaii. He has spent his whole life in the small forestry town, Kinross, and has developed both an economic sense of the forest and a deep respect for nature. When two young and reckless ATV riders light what becomes a Crown Fire, the text explodes with high intensity action as Garth and five others race to get away.

     Garth’s gruff supervisor, Max, happens upon two ATV riders, Isaac and Jeb, when his team is out to work for the day. When he attempts to stop them, an accident occurs, and an initially small fire becomes deadly from an exploding gas tank. From this point on, Garth, Max, Isaac, and the other students, Danny, Kelsey, and Hinu are racing from point to point to escape the wrath of the fire. The detailed and accurate information included about forestry and fires adds to the believability of the plot and makes it a fascinating read. The text, itself, is short, the syntax is quite clipped, and the chapters are also short and often include a cliffhanger. The style and content of the text would make it valuable for reluctant readers, particularly boys.

     The novel is in a limited third person narration that centres on Garth’s perspective, and so his initial biases towards other characters are prevalent throughout the majority of the text. As a result of this, the other characters are not thoroughly developed; however, this heightens the sense of action and keeps the book moving at a riveting pace.

     As the intensity of the student’s situation rises, Garth reevaluates his initial biases against Kelsey, Hinu and also aboriginal people in general. When the novel begins, Garth is intelligent and strong, but also judgmental and very prejudiced. In very small breaks from the raging forest fire, the roots of Garth’s prejudice and his reversal of them become evident. Through Garth’s original perspective, Hinu is described as a very stereotypically exoticized aboriginal girl. However, when she does address Garth at the end of the novel, this invented idea of her character is shattered. These instances where Garth realizes his folly become less rigid, and changes to his mindset are portrayed well without bordering on didacticism or slowing down the action.

     The blazing inferno in Running Hot is fascinating, terrifying, exciting and begs the reader to keep going. The rapid action of the story leaves little room for character development; however, Hill works around this through Garth’s changing perspectives about the people he struggles with and himself. The book does not contain the elaborate or thought-provoking elements of a survivor story like Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet, but it does at least provide some details of forestry management. Like smoke pressing you onward, the edgy syntax leaves you gasping with Garth and racing to the end. Running Hot is an informative and exciting survival story that would definitely appeal to middle schoolers.


Brianne Grant is a student in the Master of Arts in Children's Literature at the University of British Columbia.

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

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