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These fiction and nonfiction titles reveal scientific facts about wildfires and the climate change that causes them to worsen year by year, as well as the social and economic fallout that comes in their wake.
The immense wildfires that have blazed their way through parts of California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington in 2020 and 2021 are believed to be fueled by climate change. According to one report, the wildfires in California alone burned 4.3 million acres last year. Though the national news has done an excellent job of informing the public about these fires, many people still don’t grasp the shear magnitude of the devastation caused by the smoke and flames. Entire communities have been wiped out, and wildlife have either perished or been forced out of the forests. Some people have developed medical conditions as a result of smoke inhalation.The science curriculum in K–12 schools does address social and environmental issues related to climate change and natural disasters, but the topic is often glossed over for political reasons. Schools have a responsibility to present the scientific facts about these catastrophic events and to help students understand their role as citizens in effecting change.
The books in this bibliography discuss the what, why, and how of wildfires, and most look at the severe social and economic conditions brought about by these fires. Some of the titles give actual case studies of people who have experienced personal loss. Often students comprehend facts through story; the fictional titles included here are about people and animals struggling to reach safety as they are chased from their homes by blazing forest fires. These fictional events, along with the information included in nonfiction works, may help students realize the scope of the concerns at hand.
All about Wildfires. By Alessandra Potenza. 2021. 48p. Children’s Press (9781338769531). Gr. 3–5. 634.9.This title in the A True Book series offers both common and little-known facts about wildfires, with a focus on what science researchers are learning and doing to keep people safe. There is a hands-on activity, photos, a time line, and diagrams to illustrate the dangers of these extreme disasters.
Daring Wildfire Rescues. By Amy Waeschle. 2018. 32p. Capstone (9781543501124). Gr. 3–6. 639.9.This easy-to-read book in the Rescued! series illustrates harrowing rescues from some of the more well-known wildfires in the world. The depictions of the equipment and training of rescue teams reveal the science and art of their job.
Dealing with Wildfires. By Kristy Stark. 2019. 32p. Teacher Created Materials (9781493866731). Gr. 1–3. 634.9.Written in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution, this simple text discusses the causes and prevention of wildfires, different types of fire, the destruction caused by these disasters, and their effects on people and the environment. Activities for STEM makerspaces are included.
Detecting Wildfires. By Samantha S. Bell. 2017. 32p. North Star (9781635170078). Gr. 3–6. 363.37.Part of the Detecting Disasters series, this book examines the causes of wildfires, their impact on people and the environment, and the scientific methods and instruments used to detect them. Sidebars, fun facts, and a preparedness checklist offer additional information.
Extreme Fires and Floods. By John Farndon. 2017. 32p. Lerner/Hungry Tomato (9781512432213). Gr. 4–7. 363.37.Illustrated in black and white, this book in the When Nature Attacks series reveals how quickly a simple spark can spread and threaten the wildlife and surrounding communities. There is also information about the technology used to predict fires, floods, and other disasters affecting the world’s natural resources.
Extreme Wildfire: Smoke Jumpers, High-Tech Gear, Survival Tactics, and the Extraordinary Science of Fire. By Mark Thiessen and Glen Phelan. 2016. 112p. National Geographic (9781426325304). Gr. 4–8. 550.This title in the National Geographic Kids series combines facts about wildfires with a focus on the sawyers, pilots, and firefighters who risk their lives to contain and extinguish fires. Personal anecdotes along with photographs illuminate the information and offer readers an up-close view of these disasters.
A Fire Story. By Brian Fies. Art by the author. 2019. 160p. Abrams ComicArts (9781419735851). Gr. 7–12. 741.5.On October 9, 2017, Northern California was ablaze with wildfires that took 44 lives and destroyed 6,200 homes and 8,900 other structures. This graphic novel is Fies’ own story of losing his home and all of his possessions in the devastating fire. Illustrated in comics style and interspersed with photographs, this memoir clearly communicates the grief and the rage over losing everything one owns.
Forest Fire Creates Inferno. By Louise Spilsbury and Richard Spilsbury. 2018. 48p. Gareth Stevens (9781538213056). Gr. 4–7. 634.9.Part of the Earth under Attack! series, this title draws a connection between science and social studies by addressing the natural causes of forest fires, as well as the ones caused by people. There are case studies of actual fires, and a discussion of the damage these fires do to the environment.
The Lucky Litter: Wolf Pups Rescued from Wildfire. By Jennifer Keats Curtis. Illus. by John Gomes. 2015. 32p. Arbordale (9781628557183). K–Gr. 3. 599.773.This picture book is based on the true story of wolf pups that were rescued from a wildfire that roared out of control in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Five three-week-old pups were taken to the Alaska Zoo, where they were cared for until they were taken to their permanent home in Minnesota.
Out of the Woods. By Rebecca Bond. Illus. by the author. 2015. 40p. Farrar (9780374380779). K–Gr. 2. 971.3.In Canada in 1914, four-year-old Antonio Willie Giroux lives with his mother in a large hotel on a lake. A distant fire travels through a nearby forest and forces the wildlife out of their homes and into the lake for safety. Based on a true story about the author’s grandfather, the book is appropriately illustrated with pen-and-ink drawings against a sepia-toned background, which contribute to the historical setting.
Understanding Wildfires. By Olivia Williams. Jan. 2022. 24p. Cherry Lake (9781534199217). Gr. 2–5. 363.37.This title, part of the 21st Century Junior Library: Responding to Natural Disasters series, focuses on the science behind wildfires and discusses professionals who are trained to help people affected by fire with coping and rebuilding their homes and community.
Wildfires. By Seymour Simon. 2016. 32p. Harper (9780062345028). Gr. 3–6. 574.5.Originally published in 1996, this revised edition looks at the harmful and helpful ways wildfires affect ecosystems. Illustrated with actual photographs of the 1988 Yellowstone National Park wildfire, the book draws a clear connection between science and social studies curricula.
Backfire. By Vanessa Acton. 2017. 112p. Lerner/Darby Creek (9781512430943). Gr. 6–8.Elijah’s parents ground him because he lost his part-time job, and he is convinced that his summer will be boring. Then a wildfire traveling at great speed surrounds his town, and he must act fast if he is to survive.
Escape from Camp California. By Courtney Sheinmel and Bianca Turetsky. Illus. by Stevie Lewis. 2020. 128p. Random (9781984895738). Gr. 2–4.The fourth book in the Magic on the Map series transports twins Finn and Molly from their home in Ohio to San Francisco, where they help victims of the wildfire. Included is a map of the U.S., a map of California, and 10 facts about the state.
The Fox and the Forest Fire. By Danny Popovici. Illus. by the author. 2021. 44p. Chronicle (9781797202822). PreS–Gr. 2.A young city boy moves to a house in the woods and becomes friends with the forest animals, especially a bright orange fox. When a wildfire threatens the homes of the boy and the animals, they all flee to safety. The boy and his mother return to find their home destroyed, and they begin the process to rebuild. Meanwhile, the boy spots the fox snuggled in his den. An author’s note discusses the benefits of “naturally occurring” forest fires and also emphasizes how bad human-caused fires can be for the environment.
I Escaped the California Camp Fire: California’s Deadliest Wildfire. By Scott Peters and S. D. Brown. 2019. 110p. Best Day (9781951019013). Gr. 3–6.In November 2018, a campfire turns wild and blazes through Butte County, California, threatening the homes and lives of the residents. Fictional siblings Troy and Emma Benson are home alone when an electrical blackout and the morning darkness signal that something is terribly wrong. This second book in the I Escaped series is fiction, but the information about the fire is accurate. A map and actual photographs are interspersed throughout so that readers might follow Troy and Emma’s harrowing escape.
We Will Live in This Forest Again. By Gianna Marino. Illus. by the author. 2020. 40p. Holiday/Neal Porter (9780823446995). PreS–Gr. 2.The cycle of a forest fire—beginning, during, after, and rebirth—is the focus of this picture book, told from the point of view of a deer as he collects other animals and outruns a raging fire. Luminous paintings range in colors from darks (smoke), reds (flames), grays (the aftermath), and finally blues and greens (rebirth). In an ending note, the author relates her personal experience with a wildfire, while an appendix gives “Wildfire Facts.”
Wildfire. By Carrie Mac. 2020. 272p. Knopf (9780399556296). Gr. 9–12.Annie and Pete are best friends and have survived many exciting adventures since they were little. They even keep a journal of their near-death experiences. Now, on a 10-day backpacking trip in Washington State, they have a freak climbing accident. Nearby wildfires force them off the trail, and they have to depend on each other to survive.
Wildfire. By Rodman Philbrick. 2019. 208p. Scholastic/Blue Sky (9781338266900). Gr. 4–7.Sam Castine is enjoying summer camp when a wildfire breaks out and forces the camp to evacuate. The buses are loaded, but Sam goes back to retrieve his phone. Suddenly trees explode, and fire separates Sam from the bus. He encounters another camper who is stranded, and together they embark on a journey of survival.
Wildfire! By Ashley Wolff. Illus. by the author. 2021. 40p. Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane (9781534487734). PreS–Gr. 3.Sitting high in a lookout tower on Spruce Mountain is a dispatcher who spots a wildfire that threatens the forest. She notifies pilots, smokejumpers, and firefighters to get the fire under control. The art, which gives a panoramic view of the forest, reveals how quickly a fire can spread and the effect it has on the animals that live there.
Wildfire Run. By Dee Garretson. 2010. 272p. Harper (9780061953507). Gr. 4–7.Luke is entertaining his best friends, Theo and Callie, at Camp David while his father, the president of the U.S., is away inspecting the damage caused by an earthquake in the Midwest. When a nearby wildfire approaches Camp David, the security system is damaged, and the three friends must find a way to escape. Part of the Danger’s Edge series, this is a fast-paced adventure story.
Wombat Underground: A Wildfire Survival Story. By Sarah L. Thomson. Illus. by Charles Santoso. Jan. 2022. 32p. Little, Brown (9780316707060). K–Gr. 2.From 2019 to 2020, wildfires raged in Australia and threatened the lives and homes of almost 3 billion animals. This story, told through the eyes of a burrowing wombat, is one of survival and friendship. It relates how wombats turned their homes into shelters for other animals who lost their homes in the fire.
Pat Scales, the author of Encourage Reading from the Start: Essays, Articles, and Interviews from the Field (2018), was recently honored with the opening of the Pat Scales Special Collections Room at the University of Montevallo’s Carmichael Library, in Alabama.
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