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The Great Fire Discussion Questions MsLenzini MsLenzini 2 134 Aug 15, 2015 by zlarson34 zlarson34
The Great Fire
(Newbery Honor Book) by Jim Murphy


According to Murphy, no one knows for certain how the fire started. He refutes the popular myth that it began when a cow being milked by Catherine O'Leary kicked over a gas lamp, saying that it was impossible for O'Leary to have been in the barn at the time. The Great Fire of 1871 was one of the most colossal disasters in American history. Overnight, the flourishing city of Chicago was transformed into a smoldering wasteland. The damage was so profound that few people believed the city could ever rise again.

On October 8, 1871, on a lazy Sunday, a fire broke out in a barn near the edge of Chicago. The panic was slow to build at first. People ignored the danger signals, and even the fire department was unable to locate the fire. This city, built of wood, was connected by hundreds of miles of wooden sidewalks and roads. In time, wild flames, fueled by a steady wind, engulfed everything in their path. As people took to the crowded streets, hours of mounting chaos, fear, and panic followed before the relentless flames were halted. When at last they were, a new kind of drama was only just beginning. Nearly 100,000 people were homeless and searching through the burnt rubble for their families.

By weaving personal accounts of actual survivors together with the carefully researched history of Chicago and the disaster, Jim Murphy constructs a riveting narrative that recreates the event with drama and immediacy. And finally, he reveals how, even in a time of deepest despair, the human spirit triumphed, as the people of Chicago found the courage and strength to build their city once again.




Your Summer Assignment
1. Read the book and enjoy! Complete a Plot Sheet.
2. Post two, one-paragraph responses to any of the questions listed on the "Discussion" page.
3.You can select from the following:
  • You can pick one of the following "Prove-It" Projects from the list found on the Summer Reading "Home" Page: or
  • You can do a 3-D map of the area in Chicago affected by the fire.
  • You can choose to do a timeline of the fire.
  • You can choose to follow a character in the story and how they were affected by what happened.
  • You can choose do a Technology based project (such as power point, iMovie, your own book trailer on YouTube.
  • You can create your own wikipedia page dedicated to the book.

You will need teacher approval first for a technology project.


Please use my email for any questions or discussion over the summer.

clenzini@urs86.k12.il.us