Firegirl by Tony Abbott

Firegirl coverTom Bender is a typical Grade 7 kid. He’s shy, fascinated by sports cars (he’s dying for a ride in his best friend’s uncle’s Cobra!) and has a crush on a girl. He and his classmates are shaken up though, when Jessica joins their class.

Jessica is no ordinary girl. Imagine what it might feel like to be trapped inside a burning car as it ignites, leaving you screaming for it to stop, for water and ice to stop your body from burning any more.  Imagine how terrible it would feel to lose your once-beautiful face, to be called “Firegirl” by your peers.  Imagine holding out your hand to say your prayers with the whole class and have a classmate purposely avoid touching it.

While all the other students reject Jessica, Tom is kind and brave enough to hold her hand. He gets to know her and listens to the story behind her scars, changing his outlook on life.

Though perhaps a bit slow in its plot development, Tony Abbott’s compelling book explicitly addresses social and moral issues such as peer pressure and discrimination based on outer appearances. Told through the eyes of Tom, it challenges readers to think about their own vulnerabilities, and assumptions that they might make. It also is a tale about courage — both the successes and challenges that can arise from taking the extra step to try and live life “normally.”

See what others thought about the book:

Kirkus Review’s Book review

Kidsread’s Book review

Democrat and Chronicle : Student Review

– A student-made book trailer


2 thoughts on “Firegirl by Tony Abbott

    • Thank you for asking whether this might be a good read-aloud with your Grade seven students in the fall. I believe that, and perhaps you could give me feedback on this, they are at the age where they’re trying to ‘be cool’ – where they’re trying to fit in with friends… and on that point, would be a pertinent read in terms of appropriateness with content.

      As mentioned in the post, the book does a good job of addressing social and moral issues – peer pressure and appearance-based discrimination. If these are some of the things that you were wanting to address straight off, I think this book is a good candidate for it.

      It would be a good book that allows for a lot of discussion that could be employed as a good opener for having the class think about the atmosphere that they want to create or work forward to. It would be the hope also that even if they are not openly receptive, that seeds of consideration will be sown for how they choose to perceive their world.

      *A disclaimer, these are my personal thoughts and would highly recommend that you read through the book prior to implementing it within the classroom. It is not a long read nor is it very graphic (it’s encourages a lot of imaginative thought) but there might be issues that one might glance over while another might find disturbing. One such example is the depiction of the teacher. Just prior to Jessica’s entering the class, the author describes her hesitation in trying to introduce the fact that there will be a new member of their classroom. I personally think that it’s okay…we all hesitate when we don’t really know how to best shape our responses but, it also allows for room for students to question the teacher.

      Thank you again for your question, and I am curious to know what you decide to do. 🙂

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