Review sponsored by Ben Woodard
The Children’s Book Review | April 17, 2018
Written by Ben Woodard
Age Range: 14+
Paperback: 266 Pages
Publisher: Miller-Martin Press
What to expect: Racism, Orphan, Loss, Poetry, and Adult Topics
The Staircase of Fire is a riveting and intense tale about a 14-year old boy named Tom, who is haunted by his past and is struggling with decisions that threaten his future. The story is set in small town Kentucky in the 1920s – at a time when race relations were volatile and the Klu Klux Klan was active in the South. In Tom’s small town, racial tensions are high, and he witnesses a terrible incident that then impacts his role in Shakertown, which is where he lives.
Tom is an orphan and struggles to navigate the demons of his past – his father’s death, his mother’s illness, and his sister’s accident all haunt him every day in his choices and every night in his sleep. As he comes of age, he desperately tries to find ways to escape from his pain, but also forms such strong connections with those in his life and community that he cannot become invisible, but instead becomes a figure that Shakertown never expected.
Ben Woodard paints a detailed picture of the conflicted time in which Tom lived. As a character, Tom is relatable, complicated, and the kind of hero that readers will cheer for, but also one that readers may view as beautifully flawed. He wants so much to not feel anything, but yet keeps chasing the rush of experiences that make him feel and live life in the deepest of ways.
The book depicts Tom chasing away his past, obsessing about his present, and looking forward to his future. Beautiful poetry is sprinkled throughout the book, representing the core of Tom’s struggles as he is faced with tough decisions:
Meant freedom. “
This book would be well suited for the mature teen reader or young adult who understands the context of racial tensions, early American history, and the South. The book is a gripping read that will attract older teens who are able to contextualize the detailed descriptions of violence, adult topics and language, and small-town conflict that was indicative of the era. Adults will also find this to be a thrilling read, as Tom finds a way to reconcile his past, his present and his future.
About the Author
Ben is a (mostly) retired amateur adventurer who has traveled across Tibet, climbed to 18,000 feet on Mt. Everest, and solo backpacked wilderness areas. Now his adventures come in the form of imagining stories, writing them, and telling them to kids and teens.
He works with teachers, schools and literacy organizations spreading the word that books are vital—and fun.
Review written by Leah Sylvan. Dedicated Reviews allow authors and illustrators to gain prompt visibility for their work. Ben Woodard sponsored this non-biased review of “The Staircase Of Fire.” Learn more about getting a book review …
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