Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Children's Nonfiction Environmental Science & Ecosystems

Fire Shapes the World

by (author) Joanna Cooke

illustrated by Cornelia Li & Diana Renzina

Yosemite Conservancy
Initial publish date
Jun 2023
Environmental Science & Ecosystems
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2023
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 4 to 8
  • Grade: p to 3


“A nuanced portrayal of fire as a force to be respected.”—Publishers Weekly

Life as we know it evolved with fire; there is no us without it. With lyrical text grounded in the latest research, this picture book shares the primal connection between all living things and fire. Children will understand that everything they know in the world has evolved with fire.

There is comfort in understanding the natural processes taking place all around. By learning the story of fire and how it has changed this planet, this book also addresses the question: Can we adapt to an increasingly fire-prone environment? This answer is: Yes. Because we always have.

FIRE SHAPES THE WORLD is both a natural history and a child-friendly portrayal of fire ecology. It is also an encouraging springboard for conversation illuminated by breathtaking paintings, which will allow children to explore their connection to this most elemental agent of change.

About the authors

Joanna Cooke's profile page

Cornelia Li is a Chinese-born illustrator currently based in Toronto. She is intrigued by narrative woven into daily interactions between people and their surroundings and she set out to capture the relationship by externalizing the ideas and emotions into elements in her images. Her work has been recognized by the Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, Communication Arts, the AOI, 3x3, the National Magazine Awards and more.


Cornelia Li's profile page

Diana Renzina's profile page

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly, May 2023: “Somewhere on Earth,/ a fire smolders./ Witness its smoke/ and glow/ and power.” Cooke urges appreciation for fire’s fundamental role in shaping ecosystems in this poetic exploration. “Life as we know it evolved with fire,” text informs as it evokes how fauna, flora, and humans alike have responded to the way fire ravages and renews. Employing painterly layers of color, Li and Renžina fill spreads with the golden reds, oranges, and yellows of fire. Early scenes focused on prehistoric burns (“The oldest known wildfire smoldered 420 million years ago”) have a freewheeling, uncontrolled energy, while later pictures of people—including early humans portrayed with brown skin, and contemporary firefighters and campers of different skin tones—appear more static. Together, the creators offer a nuanced portrayal of fire as a force to be respected. Ages 4–8.

Foreword Reviews, March/April 2023: "The book encourages understanding of all aspects of fire, from the destructive to the life-giving."


Midwest Book Review, February 2023: "Entertaining, informative, thought-provoking, and having a special appeal to young readers with an interest in prehistory and the evolution of human society/culture, "Fire Shapes the World" is a unique, original, and very special addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections for children ages 4-8."



Other titles by