Review of They Hold the Line: Wildfires, Wildlands, and the Firefighters Who Brave Them

They Hold the Line: Wildfires, Wildlands, and the Firefighters Who Brave ThemThey Hold the Line: Wildfires, Wildlands, and the Firefighters Who Brave Them
by Dan Paley; illus. by Molly Mendoza
Primary, Intermediate    Chronicle    40 pp.
9/23    9781797214504    $18.99

Daunting, exhausting, sweaty, filthy, and dangerous are all words that can describe the work of the teams of firefighters who join together to contain and control wildfires. Paley and Mendoza’s informative picture book gives readers a full view of the effort that goes into protecting homes, people, and habitats when these all-too-common out-of-control fires endanger lives. Technical vocabulary abounds and is well explained in Paley’s clear text, which follows a team of firefighters from the first indication of a blaze until the last embers are extinguished. Reminiscent of WPA National Park posters, Mendoza’s graphically striking art is energetic and engrossing. The yellows, reds, and oranges that fill the pages provide a visceral sense of a wildfire’s heat, while cool blues and purples provide readers a chance to recover. The abundance of captions in and around the art informs curious readers about each piece of firefighting minutia, while sidebars provide detailed explanations where necessary. Extensive back matter includes a history of wildfire management, explaining how past policies have contributed to the now-common occurrences of massive wildfires and the increased dangers they present. Specific mentions of Indigenous “hotshot crews” and the important role Indigenous leaders have in crafting more sustainable fire management practices are very welcome.

From the November/December 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Eric Carpenter
Eric Carpenter
Eric Carpenter is the school librarian at Fred A. Toomer Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia.

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