cover image Controlled Burn

Controlled Burn

Erin Soderberg Downing. Scholastic Press, $26.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-338-77606-5

After a fire destroys 12-year-old Maia’s home and severely burns her sister, Amelia, Maia is sent to stay for the summer with her grandparents in rural Minnesota. While she’s there, her parents will focus on Amelia’s recovery and rebuilding their home. In addition to the slew of fears Maia carries, including of heights and swimming, she harbors a secret: she believes she started the fire. Initially feeling jilted about being sent away, Maia spends her days with her grandfather, who volunteers at the Forest Service keeping an eye out for fires in an old watch tower. As Maia and her grandfather grow closer, she begins to overcome her hesitance around climbing to the tower’s lookout. She also strikes up a friendship with nine-year-old Griffin, a Bear Scout keen on earning all his badges; she agrees to help with this accomplishment in exchange for his joining her swimming lessons. Maia’s emotional vulnerabilities, pursuit of overcoming her fears, and struggle to manage her guilt over her sister’s injuries are sensitively wrought. Soderberg Downing (the Great Peach Experiment series) meaningfully explores the healing power of nature and the beauty of connecting with family in this vibrantly detailed adventure. Ages 8–12. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (Nov.)

Correction: A previous version of this review misstated the author's name.