Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Fire Starters

Storm, Jen (Author)
Henderson, Scott B. (Illustrator)
Yaciuk, Donovan (Illustrator)
Portage & Main Press 2016. 54 pages
First published: 2016
Series: The Debwe Series
ISBN: 9781553796855 (paperback)
Original language: English
Book type: Graphic Text
Book genre: Realistic

Text Elements:

characterization, panel arrangement, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

This brief yet potent story packs its comic-panels with a gripping plot, a unique setting, a sophisticated message about personal bigotry and systemic racism—and a moving demonstration of Indigenous approaches to justice.

High school students Ron and Ben Whiteowl live on the Agamiing Reserve with their mothers and Grandma. When the reserve gas bar is burned down, the town law holds them for arson, based on flimsy evidence and racist assumptions. While the real culprit—the sheriff’s son—justifies his own silence (“It’s not like my dad won’t be putting them in jail eventually anyway”), the brothers are targeted in town, at school and on the hockey rink: “Pyro!” “Go back to the reserve!”

Full-colour artwork uses realism and dramatic composition to convey settings and symbols. Grandma’s stories of her deceased son—an adept hunting guide—show him sprinkling tobacco as his hunter client takes down his prey. When the sheriff’s son—his crime caught on video—attends the reserve council meeting, the image is dominated by a wall hanging of a giant turtle with a circle of four differently coloured quadrants (both symbols representing beliefs held by many Nations). A braid of sweetgrass encircles an image of the council, as perpetrator and victims participate in a healing ceremony. The sheriff’s son himself ends up sprinkling his own tobacco during a cigarette break, as he cleans up the gas bar. “Miigwetch for saving me” he tells the earth. In powerful final images of reparation and reconciliation, the boy wipes clean a tattered poster of a missing woman, who seems to watch over him as he sweeps debris out the door.

  •  The text explores Indigenous approaches to justice and reconciliation. Discuss the importance of the passing on of Indigenous knowledge and traditions. What is lost when this knowledge is not passed on?
  •  

    In small groups, discuss the way community and the environment impact the characters and how crafting choices support meaning.

  •  

    Using a production process, select one scene to re-write as a script or short story. In a reader-writer's notebook, reflect on the production decisions made during the writing process.

  •  

    Create a prediction storyboard outline prior to reading this graphic novella. Use only the names of the characters (Ron, Ben, Jason, Michael), the front cover and the setting (Agamiing Reserve).

  •  

    After reading, rewrite your storyboard. Has it changed? Discuss with a partner.

  •  

    Discuss whether the arsonist’s punishment fits the crime. What do you think could be a more appropriate punishment?

  •  

    Identify a theme of the story based on the text, illustrations or both—perhaps even a theme that emerges from what is left unsaid. Prepare a text for a podcast designed to raise public awareness about your chosen theme.

  • To cooperate with others
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Personal Development