Title: Fiery Night: A Boy, His Goat and the Great Chicago Fire
Author: Sally M. Walker
Major Themes: Fires, Disaster, Chicago, Picture Books, US History 1865-1900
Synopsis: When their house catches on fire during the Great Chicago Fire, Justin and his family must flee—but he can’t leave his goat Willie behind!
One type of books my children and I really enjoy reading is picture books that tell about something that really happened. I was delighted to find Fiery Night, a story about the Great Chicago Fire. I can’t remember ever reading anything to my children about that event, although I’ve read a few books about it. I started reading this story to my 8- and 5-year-olds, and soon even the teenagers were gathered around to see the pictures and hear the story!
Justin Butterfield had a pet goat, Willie, which he loved very much. He cared for Willie and told him stories. After he told his pet Good Night, he went into the house with his family. His brother read a story in the newspaper about a fire—it was only a mile from the Butterfield home. With no rain for several weeks, conditions were perfect for fire, and sure enough, during the night a fire broke out next door. Though the family battled valiantly to save their home, they had to give up.
The Butterfields joined many other people in fleeing to Lake Michigan for safety. Justin wouldn’t leave Willie behind—but his goat was too afraid to walk on the sidewalk or go into the water. Would the family survive? Would the goat live?
We liked the author’s note at the end of Fiery Night. In it, she confirmed that the story is very factual. That always makes a story better for us! The pictures really help to tell the story, too. They aren’t quite as realistic as my favorite books, but close. They are just slightly cartoonish. I really liked the way the neighbors helped each other and cared for those whose houses had been destroyed, and the way the family worked together and stuck together for survival. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a true story told in a picture book.
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley, and these are my honest thoughts about it.
Read Aloud—Ages 3 – 4, 5 – 8
Reading Independently—Ages 7 – 9