Surviving the Wildfire: Hear My Story
Surviving the Wildfire: Hear My Story
As they fled in their car, they could see the poles that hold power lines catching fire behind them and falling to the ground. They were really scared that the poles might hit the car. They also saw people near their burning houses calling out for help, but there was nothing they could do but just keep on driving for their lives.
Mom called Dad on the phone to tell him we were OK. She cried as she told him what she had seen, but they were also tears of relief that at least we had survived.
The timely “Disaster Diaries” series offers readers a bit of a different twist on the usual books about natural disasters. Its nonfiction chapters alternate with stories, fairly graphic in nature, told from a child’s perspective. Though the children and their families are fictional, their stories are gleaned from personal accounts of natural disaster survivors. In this regard, the subtitles of the books are somewhat of a misnomer for the stories represent less than 40 per cent of the entire text. Each title is comprised of 13 chapters as well as a table of contents, a glossary, an index, and a list of books and web sites for further study. The main body of the text describes the causes and effects of the specific disasters, where on the planet the disasters happen, scientific research, disaster prediction and preparedness, government involvement with respect to new building rules and regulations, and relief efforts. One common thread running through the series is the role that global warming is playing in each of these devastating events. For example, the California wildfire season has increased by 78 days since the 1970s. Additional text boxes provide information about the victims (humans, animals, buildings, infrastructure and entire towns) lost or affected by these tragedies.
Much of what is found in the main body of the text is available in other books, but what makes this series compelling is the first person narrative of (fictional) boys and girls from various parts of the world. Their “recollections” convey the panic they experienced as they and their families tried to flee their homes, find shelter and locate lost relatives, and their sadness over the loss of friends, family, and their homes and villages. For some, the damage to their sense of safety and security will never be repaired. The text is enhanced with abundant colour photographs, maps, diagrams, sketches and satellite images. (A free downloadable teacher’s guide is available, but the activities mainly involve basic recall and presenting facts to the class.)
Surviving the Wildfire: Hear My Story is particularly timely with the Australian wildfires of 2019 still on the minds of many. This title features the story of Toni and her family from Paradise, California, who fled the Camp Fire wildfire in November, 2018, for the safety of Sacramento. Toni describes her fear as she and her mother drove along the highway with thousands of other people and watched the fire advance. Since there was nothing left of her family home, Toni’s parents chose not to rebuild, but, instead, they started a new life in Sacramento. The factual portion of this book discusses the conditions necessary for a wildfire, causes of wildfires (both natural and human), types of wildfires, how the height of the “fuel” (taller trees, for instance) causes higher temperatures (one fact is that 50 m flames can reach temperatures of 1,200 °C, one-fourth the temperature of the sun), and the sheer destructive power of wildfires. Not only are buildings, bridges, railroad tracks and forests destroyed, but also animal habitats. In the case of Australia’s wildfires, it is estimated that up to a billion animals were killed, some of them now in danger of extinction or, perhaps, completely wiped out.
Informative and educational, the “Disaster Diaries” series’ combination of facts and personal recollections proves that two is sometimes better than one.
Gail Hamilton is a former teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, Manitoba.