Book Review: PARADISE ON FIRE, by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Inspired by the real life Camp Fire in California in 2018, this middle grade survival story follows Addy, a young girl from the Bronx who’s headed to California to participate in a summer wilderness program. Haunted by her parents’ death when she was just four at the hands of a tragic apartment fire, Addy’s grandmother Bibi has enrolled her in this program to broaden her horizons and live up to her name (Aduago, which means daughter of an eagle).

Once she arrives, Addy surprisingly finds herself enjoying the outdoors and learns to camp, hike, rock climb, and most importantly, how to correctly start and put out campfires. Realizing Addy has a need to create maps to show escape routes, the camp’s owner, Leo, shows her how topographical maps work which helps her understand her new environment. As the summer days pass, Addy’s love and respect for the wilderness grows, and she learns to trust the other kids as they depend on each other for companionship and survival.

But when a wildfire approaches Wilderness Adventures, Addy is suddenly faced with the nightmare of her past. It’s up to her to her to lead her friends to safety, and she’ll need all the courage and knowledge she’s obtained to survive.

With flashback scenes to the fire that killed her parents and told in sections titled: 
Flying Blind
Flying Home and
Epilogue, this middle grade story will spark discussions surrounding global warming and environmentalism among its readers.

Katie Reilley is a fourth and fifth grade ELA teacher from Elburn, Illinois, and a proud mom to two amazing daughters, ages 14 and 10 who has been married to a wonderful husband for 18 years. She’s a member of #bookexpedition, a group of teachers, librarians and authors who read and review ARCs and newly released middle grade books. She’s also happy to be part of the #classroombookaday community, and loves to learn alongside her students and fellow educators. She has been teaching for twenty-two years, and her passion is getting books into the hands of her students. You can find her on Twitter at @KReilley5.

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