Monday, August 14, 2006

Fire-us

Book: The Fire-us Trilogy: The Kindling, Keepers of the Flame, and The Kiln
Authors: Jennifer Armstrong and Nancy Butcher
Published: 2002-3

In a house in Lazarus, Florida, seven children between the ages of seven and fifteen are living hand-to-mouth, scavenging from abandoned supermarkets and stores. They are the only ones left. All their parents--in fact, all the adults--have been dead for five years, victims of a terrible virus that burned them from the inside out. Most of the other children are dead, unable to take care of themselves without the adults around. But Hunter, Mommy, Teacher, Baby, Doll, Teddy Bear, and Action Figure are still alive--for now.

But then Puppy and Kitty, two little children under the age of five, show up, and with them comes the strange, wild Angerman, who is determined to get to Washington, DC and to the President. When the makeshift family decides to go with them, they are plunged into a morass of impossible questions. Is anybody else alive? What really happened to unleash the Fire-us on an innocent populace? Where did Puppy and Kitty come from?

And most importantly . . . how are they going to make it to tomorrow?

This dystopic near-future story is definitely not a light weekend romp. Prepare yourself to be disturbed. I think what shook me the most was imagining the world that the kids are living in. Not only is nature retaking Florida, with a vengeance, but the kids themselves have lost even the memories of their own names in the fight to survive. (Of course, it doesn’t help to realize that if Fire-us were real, I would have died too.)

None of the older kids are poster children for sanity, but Angerman is the one with the fewest Cheerios in his bowl. One of his most frequent rants concerns the fact that they’re children and shouldn’t have to deal with all this. There should be someone around to take care of them. But both he and we quickly learn that just because an adult is around, this doesn’t mean everything’s going to be okay.

Possibly one of the neatest things that Butcher and Armstrong do is their representation of the Book, a scrapbook in which Teacher records every scrap of information, both from this new world and from the old one, that she can get her hands on. From ad slogans to dreams to pages from the phone book, at first this Book seems like nothing more than a scrambled and futile attempt to remember their old lives. But from these snippets and scraps, Teacher (and the reader) derives meaning that guides them through their new world.

1 comment:

Jen Robinson said...

I thought that these books were fascinating, too! I love the Book. Thanks for the review.