CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 40. . . .June 15, 2018
Wildfire. (Orca Currents).
Victoria, BC: Orca, August, 2018.
117 pp., pbk., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1810-1 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1811-8 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1812-5 (epub).
Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.
Review by Deborah Mervold.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
“Yikes, I do!” cried Monica. “For a second I thought I was imagining it but for sure someone’s smoking. In the woods! In the driest summer in ages. All we need is another Fort Mac.”
Monica was echoing everyone else in town, especially my gran. The huge fire in Fort McMurray had destroyed thousands of buildings, and hundreds of townspeople had been left homeless. When it came to natural disasters, we had our own live-in reporter. Gran liked nothing better than to spread the word when something grim – flood, fire, earthquake, tsunami – happened in the world. Monica was one of her biggest fans.
Dylan, the central character in Wildfire has featured as the main character in a number of books by Deb Loughead, including Payback, The Snowball Effect and Caught in the Act, all part of the “Orca Current” series. Wildfire begins with Dylan and his girlfriend, Monica, who is a bird watcher. They are in an old rowboat which Dylan can barely manage on the way to a picnic when they smell smoke. They know this is bad because of the dryness of the woods. They decide to investigate and come across a shelter someone has built. Dylan, who wants to be a photographer, has his camera with them. While Dylan is taking pictures of the shelter, Monica plunges ahead to confront the person who is smoking. They are surprised to see Mason Bates, an excellent baseball player and a public figure in town, but someone no one really likes.
When a fire breaks out near Bridgewood, both Monica and Dylan remember their earlier encounter in the woods. Was it Mason? Everyone is reminded that there is a fire ban in the Musoka Region of Ontario. Nicole, a police detective and a friend of Dylan’s family, turns to Dylan for help. There are a number of suspicious people including Elliott, a good friend of Dylan’s, with a secret he is hiding, and Jeb Wilder, a friend of Elliott’s father, and a drifter, living in the woods and known as “Wildfire”. Jeb drives everyone away when they encounter him in the woods. Dylan notices the ashes on their shoes and also on the shoes of Jonas who works with him at the lodge. When a second fire breaks out in a house and an elderly woman dies, everyone suspects that an arsonist is at work. Dylan works out the clues to find the culprit.
The story is told in first person, with Dylan as the narrator. The characters are believable with interesting dialogue and word choice. There is a good variety of sentence structure and length with some sentence fragments making the read very smooth and flowing. The vocabulary is very suitable for the intended audience. Dialogue is extensive and realistic. The fast-paced plot adds to the enjoyment of the story. The Canadian location is evident, especially with the mention of a Canadian tragedy. There are 14 chapters of eight to ten pages each. That chapters end at a high point makes this an excellent read-aloud choice. Wildfire is an excellent choice for reluctant readers. It would appeal to students who like adventure, mystery and realistic fiction.
Deborah Mervold is an educator from Shellbrook, SK, with experience as a high school English teacher and teacher-librarian. Presently she is involved with post-secondary education as a faculty trainer and program development consultant at Saskatchewan Polytechnic.
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