The Great Fire

ISBN: 0590472674
ISBN: 0439203074 now in paperback
Scholastic Inc.
Grades 5-12

  • 1995 ALA Newbery Honor Book
  • NCTE Orbis Pictus Award
  • Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Book
  • The Jefferson Cup Award
  • A SLJ Best Book
  • A Booklist Editors Choice
  • A BCCB Blue Ribbon Book
  • An ALA Notable Book
  • An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
  • A PW Best Book

In October 1871, as Chicago was engulfed in flames, 100,000 people became homeless and a flourishing city built of wood was transformed into a smoldering wasteland. Few believed that the city could ever rise again.

The Great Fire tells the riveting story of one of the greatest disasters in American history by weaving together the personal accounts of survivors -- from courageous 12-year-old Clare Innis to reporter Joseph Chamberlin -- with contemporary newspaper accounts and extensively researched Chicago history. In the process, Jim Murphy separates fact from legend, and explores the tensions between the haves and the have-nots that both fueled and followed the conflagration.

In clear and captivating prose, Murphy also reveals how the people of Chicago, in the face of despair, found the strength to rebuild and create a new architecture and a new city in the process. Maps illustrate the fire's progress, while historic photos, engravings and newspaper clippings bring the Chicago of 1871 to life.

Kirkus (pointered review)
"A veritable cinematic account."

Publisher’s Weekly (starred)

School Library Journal (starred)
"A book that sparks excitement and interest from the cover to the last well-written chapter. Murphy’s text reads like an adventure/survival novel and is just as hard to put down. The diversity and multitude of personal accounts [provide] a better appreciation of the event as a dynamic experience from which we still have much to learn. History writing at its best."

Booklist: (starred)
"The Great Fire will automatically draw readers with its fiery cover and illustrations of disaster, but the text will keep them reading."

Horn Book (starred)
"The energy and depth of the presentation make this thought-provoking history lesson absorbing and riveting reading."