Paradise on Fire

Little, Brown. Sept. 2021. 256p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316493833.
Gr 4-8–Plagued by memories of the fire that killed her parents years ago, Addy always maps her city surroundings. But a chance to experience a wilderness camp leads Addy away from her comfort zone, along with five other kids, and across the country to Paradise Ranch. Out in the California forest, Addy has the opportunity to learn essential wilderness skills. However, her worst nightmare occurs when a deadly forest fire leaves Addy and her friends fighting for their lives in the woods. Now it’s up to Addy to take all that she’s learned at camp to survive. Rhodes delivers another gripping story about loss, resilience, and healing. Addy’s anxiety over her parents’ deaths is handled beautifully through her transition from mapper of escape routes to proper wilderness cartographer. Addy’s restorative journey is realistically bumpy as she fights to accept that she can’t live her life waiting for the worst to happen; rather, she can act wisely, embracing hope. While the environmental message may seem heavy-handed at first, it plays its part well by the end, aiding the final note that humans impact the Earth greatly and need to take this responsibility seriously. Addy and the five other city kids are Black. Camp owner Leo and the two counselors are cued white. An afterword provides the historical inspiration for the story.
VERDICT Perfect for reluctant readers and fans of Dusti Bowling’s The Canyon’s Edge, this is a tale of survival and hope that doesn’t disappoint.

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