Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Winter Sky

Winter Sky

Patricia Reilly Giff
For ages 9 to 12
Random House, 2014   ISBN: 978-0375838927

There are so many wonderful things in Siria’s life. She has her friends Douglas and Laila, both of whom live in her apartment building. She has Mimi, her much-loved sitter; and of course there is Pop, who has been her “whole family” since Mom died.

Pop is a firefighter, and though Siria loves the people he works with, especially Izzy, she does not like what he does for a living; she lives in fear every time her father has to go fight a fire. The thing is that Pop loves what he does. He loves being able to help people who are in trouble.
The fire station is near enough to Siria’s home that she hears when the trucks pull out, their sirens blaring. When she is at home, day or night, she chases after the trucks on her bicycle. Being with Pop when he is on the job is Siria’s way of looking after him.

Douglas goes with Siria. He loves fires and he also feels that he should be with Siria, especially at night, to keep an eye on her. The kids have to be secretive about what they are doing because Pop would never approve of his daughter chasing after firetrucks in the middle of the night.

One winter night Douglas and Siria chase the trucks, and watch as the firefighters put out a warehouse fire. When a shed in the neighborhood also catches fire there is talk of the possibility that an arsonist is on the loose. Siria, wanting to protect her father and his crew, decides that she is going to try to find out who is responsible for the fires. Whoever it is has to be stopped.

When Siria sees a large stray dog roaming the streets she decides that she has to follow her father’s example and do what she can for the poor animal; even though she is scared of it. She buys food for the dog, and worries about the animal when it does not turn up to eat.

Siria is appalled when Laila suggests that Douglas might be the arsonist. A piece of his jacket was found at the site of one of the fires, he has a history of setting fires, and now he has burns on his hands. Siria ends up confronting her best friend, and with just a few words she tears their relationship apart.

Christmas is just around the corner when another warehouse fire breaks out at night. Siria hears the sirens, and soon she is watching as her father climbs a long ladder and brings out two night watchmen who were trapped in the burning building. To her horror, Pop gets hurt when a board falls on him. At the hospital they learn that Pop will be fine. His injured leg is only bruised, and he has one broken rib. He was very lucky and will be home in a few days. Siria is now determined that if there is another fire she will tell the police about Douglas. The idea of turning him in appalls her, but she feels that she has no choice.

This engaging story presents readers with a mystery that they, like Siria, will wish they could solve. Who is the arsonist who is putting lives at risk? In addition, the author explores the way in which Siria’s family – which includes Douglas, Laila, Mimi, and Izzy – come together to help each other out. It is heartwarming to see how these people take care of one another.