The Great Fire
  • The Great Fire
  • The Great Fire

The Great Fire

4.0 13
by Jim Murphy

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Jim Murphy's Newbery Honor Book available for the first time in paperback.

"Vivid firsthand descriptions by persons who lived through the 1871 Chicago fire are woven into a gripping account... Absorbing and riveting reading." The Horn Book, starred review  See more details below


Jim Murphy's Newbery Honor Book available for the first time in paperback.

"Vivid firsthand descriptions by persons who lived through the 1871 Chicago fire are woven into a gripping account... Absorbing and riveting reading." The Horn Book, starred review

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
For more than a century, poor Mrs. O'Leary and her cow have shouldered the blame for Chicago's infamous Great Fire of 1871. Now Murphy (The Boys' War; Across America on an Emigrant Train) lays bare the facts concerning one of the biggest disasters in American history, in the process exculpating the maligned bovine and her owner. Murphy demonstrates that the fire could have been contained: he unfolds a tale of botched communication, class discrimination (the fire began in a working-class section of the city and only later spread to the wealthier areas) and plain old bad luck. Strategically quoting the written accounts of witnesses-who include a 12-year-old girl and a newspaper editor-Murphy both charts the 31-hour spread of the fire and conveys the atmosphere in the streets. This volume, beautifully printed in sepia tones, contains historic photos, engravings and newspaper clippings on nearly every page. Especially helpful are maps placed at intervals throughout the book that represent the progress of the fire. Engrossing. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Gisela Jernigan
The terrible fire of 1871 turned the bustling city of Chicago into one of the country's worst disaster areas, practically overnight. Murphy combines many old, black and white photos, drawings and maps and a detailed text to give us a very thorough picture of the great fire-from it's beginning to it's aftermath-the rebuilding of the city. He successfully interweaves the true survival stories of several real people into his description of the fire's fierce onslaught, which successfully transport readers into the disaster scene. The last chapter dispelling some of the myths and legends that grew up around the disaster is especially interesting. An index and bibliography accompany this engrossing text.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-12-Jim Murphy's primary source-based account (Scholastic, 1995) of the October 1871 conflagration that virtually wiped Chicago from the map is fully voiced by Taylor Mali. Weaving together technical details with firefighters', journalists', and ordinary citizens' accounts of their personal physical and emotional traumas as they unfolded across the 24 hours of the fire, this version of the long-mythologized event carefully repairs earlier historians' class- and gender-biased reports. Modern listeners will not be surprised to hear that some men fled and some women hauled traditionally man-sized loads in the face of the flames, but they will be fascinated by how very modern some of the responses to the disaster seem: the mayor of Chicago, for instance, called for help-and received it-from fire departments as far away as Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Murphy carefully explains how specific mistakes led to the fire becoming so quickly out of control, as well as how political precepts of the era worked to keep these facts from public view. This is excellent social history as well as suspenseful storytelling. The diversity and multitude of personal accounts is presented in both text and voice so that there is no sense of frustration in the changes of viewpoints, but rather a better appreciation of the event as a dynamic experience from which we still have much to learn.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.00(w) x 9.90(h) x 0.30(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

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Great Fire 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Monkeyman3 More than 1 year ago
 This is the only book that i actually liked reading. My favorite part of the book is when everybody that survived got to safety and when  the fire was done burning. If you want a book  about  the great Chicago fire THIS WOULD BE THE PERFECT BOOK TO READ BECAUSE IT GIVES YOU TONS OF INFORMATION ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED THOSE VERY NIGHTS. Jim Murphy is the best.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
CRC3301 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this book. It has great information about the past, not just of Chicago, but it also tells us how people lived back then. It is filled with the accounts of real people from this terrible disaster, but the story is told like a narrative so you really get into it. One thing that was really interesting and that I did not know was that Chicago was a city ready to burn at any moment. This disaster, even though it was terrible, may have been the momentum people needed back then to change their ways on how cities were built. I think that kids will really gain a better understanding of how the world used to be after reading this book. They will see how even though people were struck down that they still rose back up to rebuild themselves again. It's a truly inspiring story, and I recommend that you read this book. CRC3301
HomeSchoolBookReview More than 1 year ago
The Chicago, IL, fire of 1871 was one of the most colossal disasters in American history. Overnight, the flourishing city was transformed into a smoldering wasteland. The damage was so profound that few people believed the city could ever rise again. Author Jim Murphy not only gives a carefully researched history of Chicago and the disaster but also weaves personal accounts of actual survivors, constructing a riveting narrative that recreates the event with drama and immediacy. The maps and illustrations really help to show the immense devastation. The book was very interesting to read and difficult to put down. There are only two discordant notes. In chapter three, when conveying several individuals descriptions of the fire, the author quotes one newspaper editor as saying, "The dogs of hell were upon the housetops," and a visitor to the city as repeating the words of someone else who said, "It must be a d--- big fire." The use of the word "hell" in describing such a huge fire might be understandable, but using the other word in a book that is specifically identified as "juvenile literature" is to me inexcusable, even if only found once. Also in the last chapter on "Myth and Reality," as he reacts to the tendency of many people of the day to blame the "poor, ignorant, lower classes" entirely for the fire, he seems to fall into the opposite extreme of "condemn the wealthy and defend the poverty-stricken at any cost." Otherwise, this book takes an important historical event and rather than giving it a dry, dusty treatment makes it seem quite real.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Great Fire is a great book! This book gives different accounts of the great Chicago fire of 1871. This book has illustrations as well as actual pictures of Chicago before and after the fire. I enjoyed the way the book begins and gives great details of what the first witness to the fire saw. 'The building was already burning fiercely and he knew that in addition to five cows, the O'Learys had a calf and a horse in there.' It also gives some explanations as to why the fire was so devastating. I would recommend this book for children 5th grade and up. Murphy, Jim. The Great Fire. New York: Scholastic, 1995.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book from the front to the back! It was ine if the best short story type book I've ever seen. I read it for ny 7th grade English class for a project. I just want to say that Jim Murphy is one of the best author ever! Go Jim!
Guest More than 1 year ago
wonderful book...i loved it cover to cover...i was however disturbed by a past review on this book where a man said he wanted the book to have his children...grow up randall...and stop mothin' this book
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a great book that was both easy to read and understand. Mr. Murphy made it easy to understand and the accounts from real people made it also very enjoyable to read. This book is great for kids.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a great one which was informative about one of the most horific diasters in history. The stories from real people made it fascinating to read and the charts from the story that tracked the fire made it easy to see how bad the fire got. It is not written in a way that insults children and tests reading skills well. It was a truly enjoyable book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was interesting and informative and helped take me back to the time of the fire and understand what it was like. I loved it. In fact, I want the book to have my children. I want nothing but that book all day every night for the rest of my life.