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Excerpt from Fire in Paradise by Alastair Gee, Dani Anguiano, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Fire in Paradise

An American Tragedy

by Alastair Gee, Dani Anguiano

Fire in Paradise by Alastair Gee, Dani Anguiano X
Fire in Paradise by Alastair Gee, Dani Anguiano
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2020, 256 pages

    Paperback:
    Apr 2021, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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About this Book

Print Excerpt


Arissa's first class, history, was at 8:00 a.m., and before it began she headed to a neighboring building to pick up some sheet music from the choir director. The hallways, normally crammed with people, were unexpectedly empty, and as she hurried along a covered outdoor walkway the sky suddenly filled with birds flocking out of town. "I've never seen so many birds fly together," she said. "Just a constant stream of birds for a minute, a minute and a half." There was an endless, barking caw of crows calling to one another.

The bell rang for the start of school, but it seemed that only ten seconds later there was an announcement over the loudspeaker telling students to go home, and to get a ride with a teacher if they couldn't leave with anyone else. Arissa found her sister and they called their mom, who said: I'm already heading back.

Arriving at Paradise elementary school, a teacher named Lynn Pitman had seen smoke and thought little of it. When it became so stifling that the children were sent in from the playground, she began to worry. Sitting at her desk to call parents, "I was shaking pretty bad." Once only a few kids were left, she gathered with the other teachers and their remaining students in a classroom upstairs.

Outside it was now growing dark, as if an eerie twilight were falling, even though it was still morning. "Looking at the kids' faces I thought, I gotta do something with them," Pitman said. Forcing cheeriness, she gave them snacks and began playing games, until police came through to check the building and told them to move. Buses were waiting next door, they said. "Once I got outside, the smoke, the darkness—it looked like midnight," Pitman said. "Then I got really scared."

Adapted from Fire in Paradise: : An American Tragedy. Copyright (c) 2020 by Alastair Gee and Dani Anguiano. Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

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