I Survived: The Great Chicago Fire, 1871

Written by Lauren Tarshis
Review by Elizabeth Caulfield Felt

This is the eleventh book in the I Survived series of novels for young readers focusing on catastrophic events in history. The “I” this time is eleven-year-old Oscar Starling, who lost his father several years before. His mother marries a painter and the family moves to Chicago. In the train station while waiting with the luggage, Oscar is robbed of all his possessions. Later, seeing the girl who tricked him, Oscar chases her, just as the fire begins to spread through the city. Oscar is separated from his family. He must overcome one problem after another, trying to save himself as well as an orphan girl and her little brother.

The story is one exciting event after another. Oscar is a sympathetic character, and readers will cheer for him as he struggles to survive. The excitement will keep children reading, and they will learn a lot about 19th-century Chicago without realizing it. The end of the book contains more information about the fire and this time and place in history. The writing is simple and effective, aimed at children in grades 2 to 4. Recommended.