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The young and the old learn from each other

[Arlene Perly RaeThe Toronto Star, January 9, 1993]

Teddy Jam, author, and Ian Wallace, illustrator, have teamed up for The Year of Fire. A girl visits her grandfather every March at maple syrup time. Her job is "bring wood when my grandfather asks, help empty the buckets from the trees, and listen to my grandfather's stories." This time he reminisces about a forest fire that ravaged the surrounding area years ago when he was her age, about 7. He describes the way it might have started and how everyone for miles around worked together to hold it back. He demonstrates the aftermath. Text and pictures together convey the sights and sounds of this conflagration, but the story is in no way scary. The fire is long over. Memory is interspersed with personal details and present day dialogue continues between the two.

Old people's stories are lost unless they get passed from generation to generation. As the grandfather puts it: "One day there won't be anyone who remembers the fire, only people who remember the story." Perhaps that is a clue to the special sympathy between old and young. Wallace's pictures tellingly call forth the rural ambience. A cheeriness reflected in both text and illustration that brightens the pages and makes the reader hope that grandpa has other stories up his sleeve for his granddaughter and for us.

Copyright © Ian Wallace