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Firegirl [Paperback]

Tony Abbott
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 1 2007
"This novel may be brief, but it leaves a big impact."
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Tom's a normal seventh-grader, negotiating a slightly prickly stage in his long friendship with Jeff...The arrival of new girl Jessica Feeney, however, changes everything; Jessica, who is attending a local hospital for treatment, has been badly burned by a fire, and her terrible disfigurement shocks the class into confusion. This isn't the usual book about adjustment to difference; instead, Abbott brilliantly explores the kids' struggle to manage the intrusion of abnormality in their lives...this is a thoughtful exploration of a brief interlude's lasting impact."
-The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

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Product Description

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-7–Tom, a seventh grader, tells about the arrival of Jessica, a new student who was badly burned in a fire and is attending St. Catherine's while she gets treatments at a local hospital. The students in Tom's class are afraid of her because of her appearance but little by little he develops a friendship with her that changes his life. Through realistic settings and dialogue, and believable characters, readers will be able to relate to the social dynamics of these adolescents who are trying to handle a difficult situation. The students who shy away from Jessica are at a loss as to what to say. Tom begins to look beyond her exterior and realizes that his life will not be the same after she leaves, just three weeks later. The theme of acceptance is presented in a touching story of friendship that is easy to read yet hard to forget.–Denise Moore, O'Gorman Junior High School, Sioux Falls, SD
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Gr. 5-8. Describing his encounters with Jessica Feeney, seventh-grader Tom Bender reflects, "On the outside it doesn't look like very much happened. A burned girl was in my class for a while. Once I brought her some homework. Then she was gone." The remainder of Firegirl considers the way outside appearances fail to portray the real story. Tom is overweight and unnoticed. Jessica Feeney, however, is impossible to ignore; a tragic fire has left horrible burns all over her body. The students at St. Catherine's avoid her, and they spread wild gossip about her. Tom's friend Jeff refuses to hold her hand during prayers. Yet Tom finds that from certain angles, Jessica almost looks like a regular girl, and by supporting her, however tentatively, he sacrifices everything he thought he wanted. In this poignant story, readers will recognize the insecurities of junior high and discover that even by doing small acts of kindness people stand to gain more than they lose. Nancy Kim
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Brought me to tears Feb. 26 2012
By Steven R. McEvoy HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book was incredible. It literally brought me to tears. It has been on my mind and in my thoughts constantly since I finished reading it a week ago. This story is a masterpiece. Tony Abbot has written a story that will touch the heart of every reader; it will likely challenge the thinking and actions of most readers also. The writing is incredible and the characters amazing.

The story takes place over a few weeks. A few weeks into the school year, a new girl joins the class. She has moved to town for medical treatments after she had been in a fire. Tom is a bit of an outsider in class; he likes to watch and observe but does not have the confidence to step forward. He is a little over weight and has a love for cars and comics. He ends up sitting beside the new girl because at St. Catherine's they sit alphabetically. The new girl is Jessica Feeney and in a few weeks she will turn Tom's world upside down and challenge what he values.

This story will take the reader into the experience of compassion, understanding and grace. It will help us look at how others see and experience things, and will leave a lasting impression on the reader. This was one of the best books I have read in years and I will recommend it to anyone who will listen!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of Teens Read Too Aug. 25 2007
Format:Paperback
For Tom Bender, seventh grade isn't all that different from the grades that came before. He still attends a private Catholic school, St. Catherine's. He's still pretty much best friends with Jeff Hicks. He still loves the Cobra, a sports car that he spends plenty of time dreaming about. The few things that are different this year? He has a great teacher, Mrs. Tracy. Jeff's uncle actually owns a Cobra, and Jeff has promised Tom a ride in it. He's in love with Courtney Zisky, a girl he fantasizes about saving from make-believe situations on a daily basis. Oh, and Jessica Feeney shows up in his classroom.

The day starts out as it regularly does. Morning prayers, the announcement of a class election, and the impending arrival of a new girl in their class. And then things change more than anyone could have ever imagined, because Mrs. Tracy informs her students that Jessica, the new girl, is unlike anyone they've ever met before. Jessica was burned in a fire, a terrible, horrible tragedy, and she looks different than anyone these kids have ever seen. Tom has only a short time to think about what this means before she's there, the Firegirl, hideously disfigured yet somehow still wholly alive.

What follows in the few short weeks that Jessica Feeney is in his class has a life-changing impact on Tom's life. His friend's jokes and elaborate stories they've made up for how Jessica got burned no longer seem funny. His daydreams keep slipping Courtney out and Jessica in. And during the class election, where Tom wanted to nominate Courtney so she'd know how he felt about her, he's unable to say anything at all.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  72 reviews
38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shining June 12 2006
By E. R. Bird - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
When you are a children's librarian, like myself, you grow to stereotype certain authors without thought. For example, if you had walked up to me not too long ago and asked me to describe author Tony Abbott, I would've rambled off some well meaning dribble about the man's overwhelmingly successful, "Chronicles of Droon" series. "Droon" synthesizes everything I dislike about early chapter series fiction. So it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that I was skeptical when I heard that "Firegirl" was written by the same guy. My colleagues and I are currently in the process of reading all the best children's books of 2006, so it came as a shock to me when two of them started crooning in unison over Abbott's latest effort. In a fit of pique (not to mention a sort of I'll-show-them mentality) I volunteered to read the book next. I think my intention was to read it, hate it, and show everyone that Abbott was just a two-bit hack without a drop of writing credibility. Then I actually sat down and read "Firegirl". And to my shock I found it to be a dignified, touching, and remarkably SMART little work of fiction. Little, Brown and Company took a chance on seeing if Abbott had the writing chops to win over skeptics like myself. Their gamble will pay them back in spades.

The book only covers a couple of weeks, and as Tom himself says right from the start, "Stuff did get a little crazy for a while, but it didn't last long, and I think it was mostly in my head anyway". And it all happened when Jessica Feeney came to his class. Until she came Tom was a very regular seventh grader. He's a little plump, obsessed over a rare car called a Cobra, and daydreams regularly about saving the life of the girl of his dreams, Courtney. Then Jessica comes to his class. Caught in a fire a couple years ago, Jessica suffers from severe burning over her entire body. Tom is just as disgusted by Jessica's appearance as everyone else in his class, but he's also completely fascinated. Slowly he gets to know her better than anyone else, and in turn incurs the wrath of his friend Jeff. By the end of the book Jessica has moved to another town and Tom is a person completely and utterly different from having known her for the brief period he did.

Okay, I summed it up poorly. It doesn't sound like a book you'd want to read, does it? What's remarkable is that it is, though. It's amazing. For example, at one point Tom and Jessica are having their first conversation and Tom starts talking about superpowers. He's always liked to daydream that he had, what he likes to call, "dumb powers". Something like an indestructible finger or legs of snow or the ability to roll uphill. The kids then have a great conversation about how many powers a person would actually need and how the best power could be one that "nobody else wants". It's a small scene and the writing in it is so beautiful and succinct that kids can read this conversation as it happens and then read between the lines as well.

Here's what Abbott could have done with this book but didn't. He could've ended it with some schmaltzy finale where beautiful Courtney starts dating Tom cause she knows he's a nice guy. He could've filled the book with cheap platitudes about looking past a person's skin and finding out who they really are. In short, he could've written a book that just reeked of didacticism or cheap emotional shots. Instead, as an author Abbott never takes the easy route out of a scene. And by saying this I do not want to be mistaken for saying that the book doesn't have any emotion. One of the last scenes in this book involves a stuffed frog and a moving van and if you don't find your breath catching in your throat when you read it then you have no soul.

By the way, I've been staring at the cover of this book for quite some time and I only just now understood that the image presented there is a scene in the book. Oh yeah. I'm quick. You know, the book's only about 145 pages. It's not very long and it's not a hard read at all. Reluctant boy readers who've grown to enjoy books through series like "The Chronicles of Droon" may well find themselves drawn into Abbott's newest subtlest tale. Maybe that's Abbott's super-power. It doesn't matter if he's writing about three kids and a staircase of rainbows or a tale of a boy and a girl at a Catholic school. Whatever he writes is infinitely readable. And that's a power more than one author would kill to get their hands on.
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of Teens Read Too June 7 2006
By TeensReadToo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
For Tom Bender, seventh grade isn't all that different from the grades that came before. He still attends a private Catholic school, St. Catherine's. He's still pretty much best friends with Jeff Hicks. He still loves the Cobra, a sports car that he spends plenty of time dreaming about. The few things that are different this year? He has great teacher, Mrs. Tracy. Jeff's uncle actually owns a Cobra, and Jeff has promised Tom a ride in it. He's in love with Courtney Zisky, a girl he fantasizes about saving from make-believe situations on a daily basis. Oh, and Jessica Feeney shows up in his classroom.

The day starts out regular enough. Morning prayers, the announcement of a class election, and the impending arrival of a new girl in their class. And then things change more than anyone could have ever imagined, because Mrs. Tracy informs her students that Jessica, the new girl, is unlike anyone they've ever met before. Jessica was burned in a fire, a terrible, horrible tragedy, and she looks different than anyone these kids have ever seen. Tom has only a short time to think about what this means before she's there, the Firegirl, hideously disfigured yet someone how still wholly alive.

What follows in the few short weeks that Jessica Feeney is in his class has a life-changing impact on Tom's life. His friend's jokes and elaborate stories they've made up for how Jessica got burned no longer seem funny. His daydreams keeping slipping Courtney out and Jessica in. And during the class election, where Tom wanted to nominate Courtney so she'd know how he felt about her, he's unable to say anything at all. He takes Jessica her homework during one of her many school absences, and learns the truth behind how she was burned, and he cries because she's just a kid like he himself is. Even a ride in the Cobra, which Tom has been dreaming about for years, is pushed by the wayside.

FIREGIRL is the story of being different, of change, and of acceptance. There are no real happily-ever-afters in this book. Jessica isn't miraculously healed, Tom doesn't morph into a superhero or righter of all wrongs, and the students in Mrs. Tracy's class don't all learn that you can accept people who are different. Instead, this is the story of individual strength, of the internal struggle to balance what you know is right with what is wrong. A very inspiring story, indeed.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars powerful Nov. 3 2006
By B. Baker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It only takes an hour or two to read but you will remember the way it made you feel. You want to be the person who would reach out to Jessica; it's not her fault that she is so disfigured that she is painful to look at. The kids in the class are real. There are kids who fear her, pity her and care about her. They are curious about how she got like this and make up stories to calm their own fears. But Jessica isn't just the burned girl she has a story too, she is keeping a secret.

The story is powerful but still appropriate for pre-teens.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read! But a little short. Aug. 5 2012
A Kid's Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I love this book!!!! It is a must get! The book is mainly about this new girl in Tom's school who has been burned badly during a fire. Everyone stares at her and thinks she is strange, but Tom is liking her.
Advantages: I felt very connected to the book. It feels like you are in the shoes of the girl and of Tom.
Disadvantages: The book left you hanging at the end and was fairly short.But other than that it is GREAT!
Don't take my word for it read it yourself!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Painfully profound July 17 2008
By CD - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Tom is your typical middle-school boy. He is just a little rough around the edges, has a crush on the prettiest girl in class, and hangs out with a friend talking about cool cars and gross stuff. Then, a new girl comes to class for two weeks - two weeks that change who Tom is deep inside.

The new girl has been disfigured in a fire and has come to Tom's town for treatments. In this brief little story, Tom's inward character comes rising out of himself - often to his own surprise - as he resists the crowd's reactions to this poor girl.

The author doesn't create an overly heroic response. Instead he allows the reader to view a very realistic struggle...to want to be better than you are...yet still wrestle with a desire to be relieved of caring so much.

What an EXCELLENT novel! Everything isn't tidily resolved at the end. It's just a glimpse at the life-changing moments we face that shape our character.
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