Simeon's Fire by Cathryn Clinton, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Simeon's Fire

Simeon's Fire

by Cathryn Clinton

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"The farm and Amish ways spring to life with full characters and carefully chosen details. . . . A story animal lovers will enjoy." — KIRKUS REVIEWS

On the Amish farm where he lives and works with his family, ten-year-old Simeon Zook hears and feels things other people miss — things like the quiet sounds of birds and animals, or even


"The farm and Amish ways spring to life with full characters and carefully chosen details. . . . A story animal lovers will enjoy." — KIRKUS REVIEWS

On the Amish farm where he lives and works with his family, ten-year-old Simeon Zook hears and feels things other people miss — things like the quiet sounds of birds and animals, or even the subtle sense that something is not quite right. It is just that sort of unease that draws him out to the barn one night, the night he stumbles upon the glare of a stranger’s flashlight and a sudden crackling blaze. With insight into a child’s inner struggles and the nuances of Amish traditions, Cathryn Clinton tells a coming-of-age story of family, loyalty, and faith in the face of fear and prejudice — and the enduring strength of one boy’s dreams.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Young Simeon Zook's world is centered around his family and their dairy farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He loves the animals, especially the heifer he received on his eighth birthday. He calls her Lena A and now, two years later, she is about to have her first calf. Instinctively, Simeon knows that something is not right, so his father sends him to the neighboring Mennonite farm to phone for the veterinarian. Later, a series of barn fires occurs in the Amish Community. Simeon has a guilty secret about the fire that destroys his family's barn because he saw two men near the barn the night of the fire. He does not know what to do because the men threatened to burn down his family's home if he says anything. This well-written account of Amish life will not have wide appeal to many youngsters, but those interested in the contemporary Amish way of life will learn a great deal. The addition of a glossary and a pronunciation guide of Pennsylvania German words is very helpful. 2005, Candlewick Press, Ages 9 to 11.
—Sylvia Firth
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Ten-year-old Simeon loves the animals on his family's farm. He wants to be a vet when he grows up, but to do so he'll have to leave his religion-Amish children don't go to school past eighth grade. His questions about the future are set aside when a rash of fires hits his rural area, and soon his own family's barn burns down. Simeon must wrestle with his conscience as he'd been smoking one of his older brother's cigarettes just before the fire started, and worries that he might have been at least partially responsible. And then there are the shadowy figures whom he saw lurking about who threatened to burn down his house if he said anything. Many readers will relate to his struggles with these dilemmas. The fact that the fires may be hate crimes adds a note of topical interest. Clinton's writing style is, overall, smooth and straightforward, with sometimes simple and lovely descriptions of the way the natural world delights Simeon. The pacing, though, is quite slow and deliberate, which may limit the book's appeal. The boy's lack of peer relationships and the numerous details about farm chores may also deter less patient readers. While this book does have many fine qualities, it may be best suited for larger collections or those with a special interest in the Amish religion.-Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Clinton's latest, a slim volume aimed at a younger readership than her previous works, examines the question: What if you're afraid to tell the truth? Ten-year-old Simeon, an Amish boy, loves animals and the rhythms of his farm family's life. His special relationships with his cow, Lena A, and with Dreamer, a draft horse he helps choose at auction, lead him to the barn late one summer night; while there, he decides to try one of his older brother's cigarettes. When the barn catches fire, he's afraid to tell what he knows-because the arsonists threaten reprisal, and because he may have also been to blame. Simeon's dilemma is sensitively told. The farm and Amish ways spring to life with full characters and carefully chosen details. The ending, however, feels overly easy-the culprits are too quickly identified and Simeon's decision to become a vet seems made without any understanding of what it would mean to leave his faith. Still, overall, it's a story animal lovers will enjoy. (Fiction. 8-12)

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.13(w) x 7.63(h) x 0.28(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

"But why would someone do that?" Jonas asked. "Set a fire?"

"For all sorts of reasons. Some people set fires to get insurance money, but I realize that isn't the case with you Amish. Sometimes it's firebugs."

"Firebugs?" Jonas asked.

"People who love to set fires." The man paused and cleared his throat. "But as these fires have been on Amish farms, we have to consider that it could be someone who doesn't like the Amish."

Simeon was looking at Grossmudder, and he saw the man's words knock the air from her. Simeon saw her face flatten and her mouth drop open. Sylvan was open-mouthed, too. They looked like fish, Simeon thought, hooked and left on the ground by the pond. Should I say something? Simeon thought.

Simeon turned and looked at his father and saw the yellowy shine on his face. Daat was looking even more like Uncle Daniel. Simeon saw the quiver in his mother's left hand and her stooped shoulders, and the bulging pulse in the right vein of Jonah's cheek. His fear was drained down through his feet. His legs slackened, and he felt a weight in his ribs. His chest ached, fierce with a heavy love.

No, he thought quickly. He could never let anything happen to them. There was no doubt in his mind that the fire setters would harm them. None at all. He knew they would come and burn their house. And he couldn't let them do that to his family. What if they burned one of them this time?

The man's words on the night of the fire swirled in Simeon's mind and he wanted to shut them out, but instead he pushed them deeper inside, down into his aching chest. Surely it was the best way for them all. He was keeping them safe, wasn't he?


SIMEON’S FIRE by Cathyrn Clinton. Copyright (c) 2005 by Cathyrn Clinton. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA.

Meet the Author

Cathryn Clinton is the author of the critically acclaimed and award-winning A STONE IN MY HAND, as well as THE CALLING, her first novel, which was named a PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY "Flying Start." Of SIMEON'S FIRE, she says, "Has fear kept you from figuring out the right thing to do, much less doing it? I've struggled with this, and like Simeon, I've found, to my surprise, that new truths can come through familiar voices. If we can still ourselves to listen to our hearts and our communities, we will find the way to love."

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