CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 8 . . . . December 7, 2007
Burn:The Life Story of Fire opens with this tragic but engaging story which draws readers into a most, unusual and neglected topic: fire. This nonfiction book is formatted to look like a paperback novel, with a simple cover which has a photograph of a single burning match. The image is powerful, as is fire itself. Readers will be surprised to learn about the many aspects of fire we take for granted or ignore until a tragedy occurs involving fire.
From the earliest known use of fire by humans, to the ongoing rebirth of planet Earth from within, readers will explore a wide range of cultural stories from around the world interwoven with informational related text. The relationship between cultural groups and fire is distinct as their individuality in customs, traditions and stories. Kyi understands that storytelling is an effective manner to engage her readers from the beginning to the end of this book. Burn is a good example of not only how fiction and fact can transverse genres but also how they are essential in developing a deep understanding of a topic.
My having watched a young couple I know struggle with losing their home to arson this summer made this topic all the more pertinent and real to me, as a reader and person. Burn is unsettling, as few books might be in Canadian schools. Considering that arson causes more than one seventh of all fires in Canada, this is a book with which librarians and teachers will want to introduce to and discuss with students.
For those students interested in a career as a fire fighter, Burn provides both a wide and deep examination of many aspects about fire history. It is an ideal book for project or inquiry based learning as readers will get an in-depth look into a topic often ignored. The subheadings, information boxes, list of source books and index, help to make this book enjoyable to digest. One cannot help wishing, however, that it was formatted in the style of the Dorling Kindersley “Eyewitness” books, with photographs, interspersed with text, as images of fire and its effect are often the most powerful ones we will ever encounter.
Though comprehensive in its examination of fire, Kyi’s book leaves readers wondering whether fire ‘produces or consumes more,’ as one of life’s greatest essential but mysterious elements (p. 134).
Fern Reirson is a teacher-librarian at Jackson Heights School in Edmonton, AB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.