The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn
Author: Sally J. Pla
Published July 11th, 2023 by Quill Tree Books
Summary: Neurodivergent Maudie is ready to spend an amazing summer with her dad, but will she find the courage to tell him a terrible secret about life with her mom and new stepdad? This contemporary novel by the award-winning author of The Someday Birds is a must-read for fans of Leslie Connor and Ali Standish.
Maudie always looks forward to the summers she spends in California with her dad. But this year, she must keep a troubling secret about her home life–one that her mom warned her never to tell. Maudie wants to confide in her dad about her stepdad’s anger, but she’s scared.
When a wildfire strikes, Maudie and her dad are forced to evacuate to the beach town where he grew up. It’s another turbulent wave of change. But now, every morning, from their camper, Maudie can see surfers bobbing in the water. She desperately wants to learn, but could she ever be brave enough?
As Maudie navigates unfamiliar waters, she makes friends–and her autism no longer feels like the big deal her mom makes it out to be. But her secret is still threatening to sink her. Will Maudie find the strength to reveal the awful truth–and maybe even find some way to stay with Dad–before summer is over?
“A vulnerable portrait of one girl seeking to empower and redefine herself outside of her personal traumas.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Through Maudie’s earnest, occasionally poetic narration, Pla vividly explores the ways that physical and verbal abuse can distort self-perception. A perceptive, poignant tale of self-discovery.” — Kirkus Reviews
“A heartfelt story of courage and hope about Maudie, who navigates the world in her own unique divergent way, even while struggling with challenging family dynamics and loss. Readers will cry, cheer, and celebrate, and not soon forget, Maudie McGinn.” — Pam Muñoz Ryan, Newbery Honor-winning author
“A gorgeous, bighearted, beautiful book. I loved it.” — Elana K. Arnold, award-winning author of A Boy Called Bat
“A powerful and deeply affecting story that will carry readers along like the perfect wave.” — Barbara Dee, author of Maybe He Just Likes You
“A breathtakingly beautiful ride of a story about an unforgettable, neurodivergent heroine.” — Jess Redman, award-winning author of The Miraculous
About the Author: Sally J. Pla writes stories for young people. Her books have been translated into many languages, garnered starred reviews, appeared on many ‘best book’ and state lists, and picked up a few awards, but the best thing they’ve done has been to connect her to readers like you. The Someday Birds; Stanley Will Probably Be Fine; Benji, The Bad Day, And Me; and her latest, The Fire, The Water, and Maudie McGinn, all portray characters who see the world a bit differently. Because we are all stars shining with different lights.
Sally has English degrees from Colgate and Penn State, and has worked as a journalist and in public education. You can find her at sallyjpla.com.
Review: This book, y’all. I am so glad that it was put on my radar because it is more than I could have guessed from the summary–I am so glad that I read it. It was a one-sitting read; I couldn’t put it down.
Sally J. Pla has crafted a book that pulls at heartstrings; has moments written in prose AND verse that are mentor texts in craft; will be a window, mirror, or sliding glass door (Sims-Bishop, 1990) for so many readers; touches on a tough subject that I truly think will help some readers with talking about their own situation; and has an amazing cast of characters!
Teaching Tools for Navigation: This book will be loved by so many readers. It is a must buy for middle school libraries and classrooms and may even be a good book club choice, just make sure to discuss the content triggers before choosing. Help the right readers find this book, help the right ones talk about it, and help the book get the love it deserves.
- Why do you think the author chose not to tell Maudie’s secret from the beginning?
- How does surfing both help and hurt Maudie’s situation?
- How is Maudie treated differently with her mom versus her dad?
- Why does her dad seem to understand her better than her mom?
- Why did the author include sections in verse throughout the book?
- Why do you think Etta helps Maudie?
- Why does Maudie begin to find her voice more now that she is with her dad?
- How is Paddi’s school different than Maudie’s school in Texas?
- Masks are talked about figuratively within the book. Why does Maudie and her mom feel like they have to wear a mask?
- What type of character traits does Maudie and her dad show by starting over after the fire?
Chapter 2 Wowowowowowowowow
The Molinas emergency shelter is packed with stressed-out neighbors, grim-looking police, and frantic aid workers handing out things like bottles of water and crinkly silver blankets.
It’s not cold, but I can’t stop shivering.
There’s an old clipboard perched on a table under a stale copy cup–leftover from some meeting. I take it with me to one of the cots the volunteers have set up. Its thing blue mattress crunches underneath me; it feels like it’s filled with plastic pellets.
I unclip an old paper from the clipboard and turn it over. And just like Mr. Parris taught me, back at that noisy dance, I do his calm-down trick. I start to catalog the too-muchness.
a couple arguing in staccato Spanish
an old man coughing and hacking up something wet and gross into a Kleenex, ugh
some lady shouting “Who took my phone? Who took my phone?” over and over
distant sirens: wowowowo-wowowowowo-wowwwwwwww
this silver emergency blanket, which feels like slippery aluminum foil
this sweaty plastic-pellet mattress under my butt and legs
burning eyes, like my lashes are gunked with hot grit
headache, blaring and pounding at my temples like a vise
a strange iron-band feeling around my chest, keeping me breathless
B R E A T H E
B R E A T H E
B R E A T H E
The curve of my dad’s back
Read This If You Love: A Work in Progress by Jarrett Lerner; Me and Sam-Sam Handle the Apocalypse by Susan Vaught; Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! by Sarah Kapit; The Ship We Built by Lexie Bean; Tornado Brain by Cat Patrick
**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy of review!**