My Life on Fire


Caspar is the type of boy who takes the blame when there’s a problem. Then again, he’s the type of boy who asks questions beyond any others. He wants to understand and then make things right too.

Ren doesn’t know her classmate very well. However, after the house fire, when circumstances mean they must live at Grandma’s they’re thrust together through their journeys to and from school. Thereafter, she realises his kindness, enjoys his dog, and sees how he appreciates his effort to help Grandma and value her cooking. It’s more than Ren can do. It feels as though she’s drowning, not only through the loss of her beloved collections and souvenirs, but then through her understanding of how her family operates. Suddenly, she’s in charge of Petie’s happiness, while she’s scrambling. What’s more, she’s coveting others’ special things, like clothing, hair clips, pens….

As Caspar learns to be in a family without his older brother, who made home a joy, he’s aware of the struggles of Ren and Petie. It means that he’s helpful and kind; then again, this is Caspar’s outlook too. However, is it too much for him, when he realises what Ren’s been doing? Is it possible that he might put this right, too?

Bookwagon loves My Life on Fire. It seems that Cath Howe’s books ‘speak’ to us. Thereafter, we know and care about her characters and recognise their fears, trauma and hopes. We trust that this superb novel will find a wide, appreciative reading audience, like her other books.

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My Life on Fire

Cath Howe

(Nosy Crow)

Ren rejects Mrs Elton’s sympathies when she and her family return to their home. ‘ It’s as though Ren’s life’s been destroyed too.
It’s as though Ren’s now her little brother’s minder, that she ‘should know better’. However, Ren’s grieving for the safety of home.  Her bedroom was like an exhibition, a collection of souvenirs, amidst ‘bedroom walls’ of ‘fluffy clouds shaped like the backs of sheep with a rainbow behind each one‘. Now, however, there’s nothing except borrowed clothes, a scorched box, the hope of something new, and Grandma’s rules. What’s more, Mum and Dad are stressed and withdrawn to a caravan outside Grandma’s desperately trying to retrieve work and home.
Meanwhile, Caspar enjoys the appearance of Jake Di Gambo, artist in residence, in his classroom. Then again, Caspar is more enquiring and engaged than most people. It means that at times Miss Chatto might become exasperated by his questions. However, it’s his enquiry that leads to his rescuing of Ren…
Like Cath Howe‘s The Insiders, My Life on Fire is narrated by our two central characters. It seems the author enables us to hear each of their voices. Therefore, we realise Ren’s desperation and heartbreak, alongside Caspar’s curiosity and engagement with the world. It seems that both are working their way through change. While Ren’s buffeted by the effects of a house fire, Caspar is lost without his older brother.
Bookwagon loves this empathetic, engaged and direct middle grade novel. Thereafter, My Life on Fire is an outstanding book, especially recommended to emotionally aware, devoted readers.


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