Paradise on Fire
Addy is haunted by the tragic fire that killed her parents, leaving her to be raised by her grandmother. Now, years later, Addy’s grandmother has enrolled her in a summer wilderness program. There, Addy joins five other Black city kids—each with their own troubles—to spend a summer out west.
Deep in the forest the kids learn new (and to them) strange skills: camping, hiking, rock climbing, and how to start and safely put out campfires. Most important, they learn to depend upon each other for companionship and survival.
But then comes a devastating forest fire…
Addy is face-to-face with her destiny and haunting past. Developing her courage and resiliency against the raging fire, it’s up to Addy to lead her friends to safety. Not all are saved. But remembering her origins and grandmother’s teachings, she’s able to use street smarts, wilderness skills, and her spiritual intuition to survive.
Paradise on Fire has several excellent and much needed themes. Topmost, certainly, is the environmental one. It's great to see Addy be introduced to the wilderness and to fall in love with it, and heart wrenching that she also has to see first hand how fragile this environment can be. Addressing the fact that many children, especially BIPOC ones from city environments, don't necessarily get out to parks or have swimming instruction, is something that I haven't seen done very much. Since I have a park and a pool directly in my back yard, this is easy for my to forget. Showing how Addy has dealt with the effects of trauma her whole life is in keeping with current trends; I had to be careful not to say she was trying to "move on". She is struggling just to move forward. Once again, Dr. Rhodes has done an excellent job of bringing together several different topics to make for a fascinating novel that would be good for high school and middle school readers.
This is a great addition to books about wild fires, such as Davis' upcoming Partly Cloudy, Henry's recent Playing with Fire, Philbrick's Wildfire, Shotz' Firefighter, Garretson's 2010 Wildfire Run, and Cooney's 1995 Flash Fire, which shows that this environmental problem has been going on for far too long.