Worse of all, our house was already broken. I was looking up into my own bedroom but chopped in half as if someone had sliced it with a giant knife. I could see my bed and chest of drawers, my stool and fallen-over lamp. There was my kite curtains blowing, my otter picture tipping all wonky on the wall. I turned and pushed my face into Dad’s chest to not see. But I had seen. We watched the fire devour our house like a monster.
When Ren’s house burns down, her family are left with nothing and end up moving in with her uptight gran. As she starts feeling angry and sad, she notices what everyone else has and wonders if they’d even notice if they didn’t have them anymore… Meanwhile by-the-book Caspar is shocked to realise there’s a thief in the class. What will he do when he discovers the thief’s identity?
Any book by Cath Howe is a definite must-have in my opinion: her stories are so gentle but powerful, child-centric about issues facing them today and packed full of hope and empathy. Her latest, My Life On Fire, retains all these core ingredients – it is a dual narrative story covering a girl (Ren) and her family, whose lives are turned upside down by a devastating fire, as well as a conscientious and obedient young boy (Caspar) who is on the trail of a thief in their class. Cath always has such empathetic characters and it’s so powerful understanding why Ren is stealing from those around her. My Life On Fire would make an excellent class novel as there’s a lot of moral and social questions to unpick around this story. How do you rebuild in times of great strife?
It’s really interesting seeing events from such different viewpoints and as a teacher, both Ren and Caspar reminded me of certain children I’ve taught. As the reader waits for Caspar’s inevitable discovery, the tension builds dramatically, which makes it hard to put the book down! I was also fascinated by all the secondary characters and how Cath cleverly shows how they have been impacted by the fire from little observations Ren and Caspar mention. Despite its fiery title My Life On Fire still retains love and hope in difficult circumstances and to look for the best in people. A must-have for your book shelf!
Suggested reading age: 9+
My Life On Fire is written by Cath Howe. It will be published by Nosy Crow on 6th April 2023.