“If Mercy’s a bus’ness, I wish it for you
More than just ashes when your dreams come true
Fire! Fire on the mountain”
-- Mickey Hart & Robert Hunter (1978)
“As a new report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned Monday of the ‘unequivocal’ connection between human-caused global warming and extreme weather and climate events, massive wildfires burned around the world...There appears to be no end in sight.”
-- Ivan Saric in Axios (8/9/21)
An old Deadhead/author friend, who annually migrates with her husband between northern California and Australia, hit the COVID roadblock last year. They’ve since been stuck Down Under. Sadly, she posted a few days ago about their far-away northern California home:
“Zig’s property got torched by the River Fire yesterday in Grass Valley. Started by a campfire in a nearby campground, this kinda sucks. The main house is untouched (thankfully) and the tenants were able to get out safely, just after giving birth to their new baby. Sadly, the part of the property we lived on didn’t fare so well. Nothing left but ash. Our much loved trailer that was our home, all our cool stuff, wedding gifts, ALL the camping equipment, Zig’s truck, our mountain bikes, Zig’s family heirlooms, all our clothes, all the festival memorabilia, all gone.”
Such stories are all too common these days.
In THE FOX AND THE FOREST FIRE, a young boy and his mother move from the city to the woods. After initially struggling with the many adjustments involved, the boy takes to his new environment in a big way. He develops a comradeship with a fox. The pair are repeatedly seen engaging in parallel play. But:
“Then one morning it’s strangely quiet.
I see a plume of smoke off in the distance.
I hurry to warn my mother.
And I wonder if we will ever see our home again.”
“Even after a late-season rain, we have to wait a long time before we’re allowed to go home.”
Sadly, they return to find that the house has burned down. Fortunately, the boy and his fox buddy are both safe. Plans for a new house are on the table, as his mom plants a tree to begin replacing and renewing what has been destroyed.
Oregon author/illustrator Danny Popovici once spent a summer working on a forest firefighting crew. I really enjoy his gouache, watercolor, and colored pencil illustrations. The boy wears reddish-orange hats and shoes that tone with the fox’s fur. This highlights the duo amidst expansive woodland scenes that are filled with foliage, an assortment of critters, creeks, and large rocks.
After the boy and his mom escape, there is a particularly memorable wordless scene in which stampeding forest animals flee the inferno.
“While things don’t look like they did before, the forest knows what to do after a fire.”
The problem, of course, is that the planet can bear only some much of this. It takes years for a forest to heal from fire, particularly the forest soil. It’s just not going to work for the forests or its animal and human inhabitants to deal with the smoke and destruction of annual forest fires. As scientists are stating even more definitively than before, humans need to act quickly and significantly if they want to maintain a habitable place for future generations.
Youngsters seeing burning California forests and burning Greek islands on the evening news will come to better recognize how so many creatures rely on our forests for shelter, food, and their very lives. For the young generation who will grow up to face constant climate catastrophes, THE FOX AND THE FOREST FIRE is a moving tale that provides a view into the personal impacts of such disasters.
44 pages 978-1-7972-0282-2 Ages 5-9
Keywords: fox, forest fires, disaster, environment, hope, friendship, resilience, survival, nature, 5 year old, 6 year old, 7 year old, 8 year old, 9 year old
Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA
A story of hope and friendship, in which resilience trumps tragedy in the wake of a forest fire.
After moving from the city, one boy discovers his new home in the woods isn't so bad—there is friendship in the midst of the forest. But when he spots a fire on the horizon that soon engulfs everything he's come to know—the bugs, the plants, the fox who keeps him company—he is forced to flee. When his newfound comfort goes up in smoke, how can he ever feel at home again?
In a forest fire, so much can change in an instant. But both fox and boy learn that there are some things fire cannot burn. With time, the forest will regrow, the animals will return to their home, and so will the boy and his mom.
As we all search for tools for understanding the destruction of forest fires, this touching story shows that hope, friendship, and resilience shine the brightest.
TIMELY: As fires rage over a wider swath of the United States and internationally, and as fire season lengthens year after year, and sets new records year after year, these are themes communities are engaging with daily during fire season.
WRITTEN BY A FIREFIGHTER: The author-illustrator was a volunteer firefighter, giving him a unique perspective on the topic of forest fires.
EMOTIONALLY RESONANT: This moving story ends with rebuilding—both for humans and for nature—and with a truly uplifting message of resilience.
COMMUNITY-BUILDING: A wonderful resource for families and communities experiencing the aftermath of a fire or other natural disasters, as well as anyone looking to empathize with, and better understand, those communities in need.---from the publisher