I’ve known and admired Janet McNaughton for years, though I haven’t read all of her recent young-adult novels — she is very prolific! Last week, she and I were invited together to do a panel discussion at the library, as we had both written about the 1892 Great Fire of St. John’s, and we were both nominated for Atlantic Book Awards. (Neither of us won in our respective categories, but all the nominated books were great: go read them!) In preparation for the event I decided I should read her latest novel, part of Scholastic Publishing’s “Dear Canada” series of YA novels about Canadian history.
Flame and Ashes tells the story of eleven-year-old Triffie, the pampered daughter of a wealthy St. John’s merchant whose life changes dramatically when a fire sweeps through the city, destroying downtown homes and businesses. Triffie’s voice is lively and engaging, and the research into the fire and its aftermath is impeccable, with the facts smoothly woven into an interesting narrative that tells an important coming-of-age story for Triffie. I highly recommend this for young readers and older ones who want to immerse themselves in a key moment in Newfoundland history.