Of the hundreds of books that I read as a child, The Firelings is one of the few that I remember vividly. The Firelings tells the story of the Firelings, a people who live below a volcano they name Belcher. The community worships Belcher as a God. The story centers around the orphaned Tackyobie and an assorted group of friends as the long-dormant volcano begins to awaken. Tackyobie and his friends must find a way to save his people.
Kendall's charming stories are deceptively simple; her simple sentences, adorned with only the barest descriptions, sketch characters with complexity and depth, who feel entirely real and human. Years after reading The Firelings, I can still close my eyes and see with perfect clarity some of the scenes. While telling a charming adventure story that quite young children can enjoy, The Firelings nonetheless tackles complex and dark issues, including religion, human sacrifice, guilt, and social comformity. The darker themes are subtly handled. Younger children will simply enjoy the excitement, the characters, and the gentle humor, but older children and even adults will enjoy the depth the thematic material gives the story.
The Firelings is equal in quality to Kendall's Newberry Honor winning The Gammage Cup. Thankfully, the two Minnipin books (The Gammage Cup and The Whisper of Glocken) have been reprinted. Hopefully, The Firelings will also soon be re-discovered.