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Children's Fiction Alternative Family

After the Fire

by (author) Becky Citra

Orca Book Publishers
Initial publish date
Apr 2010
Alternative Family, Friendship, Death & Dying
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Apr 2010
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 9 to 12
  • Grade: 4 to 7
  • Reading age: 9 to 12


Melissa is waiting for the "new life" that her mother Sharlene has promised her since a fire devastated their family. But nothing ever seems to change. Melissa has difficulty making friends at school, they never have enough money and her little brother Cody is a brat. When Sharlene announces that they will be spending the month of August at a remote cabin on a wilderness lake, Melissa is less than thrilled. But there is more to do at the lake than she expected, and she is surprised to learn that her mother knows how to paddle a canoe, fish and make bannock and s'mores. On an island in the middle of the lake, Melissa meets Alice, a strange girl who is writing a fantasy novel. Alice shares her tree fort on the island with Melissa, and while at first Melissa is attracted to Alice's strong personality and her stories of her "perfect family," she becomes increasingly uneasy around Alice. As Melissa's relationship with her mother improves and her confidence increases, she is able to hold her own with Alice and start to appreciate her own imperfect family.

About the author

Becky Citra is the author of over twenty books for children, ranging from early chapter books to novels for young adults. She was an elementary schoolteacher for over twenty-five years and began writing for children in 1995. Becky’s books have been shortlisted for and won many awards, including the Red Cedar Award, the Diamond Willow, the Silver Birch and the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize. She lives in Bridge Lake, British Columbia. For more information, visit

Becky Citra's profile page


  • Commended, CCBC Best Books starred selection
  • Winner, Red Cedar Book Award
  • Commended, Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Books of the Year
  • Commended, Resource Links "The Year's Best"

Excerpt: After the Fire (by (author) Becky Citra)

At first, relief flooded her. Nobody in sight—just the bare gray rock gleaming in the hot sun. Then she spotted the blue canoe floating in the reeds. Before Melissa could turn around, someone waded out of the shade cast by the low boughs of a tree overhanging the water.
   It was a girl in a red bathing suit, standing waist deep. She had long blond hair that hung down her back and a thin pointed face. She didn't look at all surprised to see Melissa. In fact, Melissa thought afterwards, it was as if she had expected her.

Editorial Reviews

"Citra delivers a poignant, well-paced story about family and friendship…A delicious summer read...The book wraps with a satisfying and hopeful ending that affirms the human capability to persist and succeed through the hardships and difficulties that life may present. The book is an engaging story - an ideal recommendation for girls looking to read through the long summer nights. Highly Recommended."

CM Magazine

"Melissa's angry resistance to her mom, and to her own memory, shakes up the familiar scenario of a kid trapped with an abusive adult, and readers will be caught by the realism of her first-person narrative…Along with Melissa's loneliness, there is always the beauty of the solitary setting and the truths she finds in the silence as she looks at the stars above the cliffs."

Booklist Online

"From the opening pages of After the Fire readers are intimately absorbed into eleven-year-old Melissa's world...In this unique and delicately written story of rebuilding, the parent-child relationship is explored in its complexity and the reader, like Melissa, is left feeling that families can heal and trust can be regained."

Resource Links

"Citra has produced yet another winning novel for young readers that is engaging, interesting and full of true to life situations."

Quill & Quire

"Citra captures the tenuous feelings of manipulation and trust, longing and belonging, that Melissa, like other preteens, experiences…I recommend this book to students looking for a mature glimpse at a preteen's life, without the gauze of a quick fix or fairy tale ending."


"Citra's story moves along quickly, and engages the reader at every step. Melissa isn't perfect, which makes her a realistic and sympathetic protagonist...Citra keeps the reader guessing throughout the book, building suspense about Melissa's past, Alice's present and the girls' future. The story is dark while remaining grounded in reality. The scenes build as characters reveal bits and pieces of the puzzle, making the conclusion of the story wholly satisfying and surprising. After the Fire>/em> is a very satisfying read with an engaging plot and fully realized characters. Girls aged nine and up will relate to the characters and their frustrations, and the language level is easy to navigate. This novel is highly recommended."

"A thoughtful story about the healing power of the Canadian woods."

Victoria Times-Colonist

Other titles by Becky Citra