The Great Fire



Murphy, Jim. The Great Fire. 1995. 144pp. Lexile 1130.

In this piece of outstanding nonfiction, which is one of the Common Core exemplars, Murphy recreates the Great Fire of 1871, which burned for thirty-one hours and destroyed central Chicago.  He uses vivid writings of people who encountered the fire first-hand: a twelve-year-old girl who almost died, a newspaper reporter, a visitor from New York, and the Chicago Tribune editor-in-chief.  Through their eyes, the reader experiences the sounds and sights of the city burning.  Murphy excels at incorporating narrative techniques more often found in fiction that bring a scene to life (without fictionalizing it).  Readers will get to know the main actors and feel suspense as the fire rages. Murphy analyzes what went wrong before, during, and after the tragic event.  Maps, etchings, photographs, and numerous quotes from primary sources create a sense of immediacy in this excellent Newbery Honor Book.

Reading Std #7:  Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, visually and quantitatively, and in words.  Analyze the series of maps that show how the fire spread; explain how the maps relate to the people that the narrative follows.