Winter Sky by Patricia Reilly Giff has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Siria’s now-deceased mother named her after Sirius, the brightest star in the winter sky. Siria lives in an apartment with dad, a firefighter. Her sitter, Mimi, and friends Douglas and Laila live in the building as well. Siria has a habit of sneaking out at night when she hear sirens. She rides her bike to fires to make sure Dad is OK.
It’s the Christmas season, but Siria has a number of other things on her mind. First of all, she’s been seeing small fires pop up late at night. She fears there is an arsonist on the loose. She’s also concerned when her father is hurt at a fire and has to spend substantial time in the hospital. Mimi and Dad’s co-worker Izzy step in to make Christmas preparations.
As Siria investigates the scenes of the small fires, she finds shreds of cloth from Douglas’ green jacket. She also sees burns on his hand and hears his brother talking about him setting fire to the kitchen. Siria begins to believe her best friend is the arsonist. Laila is a sounding board as Siria comes up with theories about Douglas. The girls also talk about how they’d love to have large, close families.
Douglas tells Siria he’s going to build a star shelter on the roof so they can see her namesake star on her birthday, which is on New Year’s Day. When Siria confronts Douglas with her theories about his arson, their friendship suffers.
Siria rescues a mutt from one of the arson sites and begs Dad to let her keep him. She names him Major. Dad comes home from the hospital just before Christmas. Izzy reveals she’s always known about Siria’s fire-chasing exploits. Izzy has looked out for the girl at each fire and kept her presence a secret.
Siria realizes she’s jumped to conclusions about Douglas. She apologizes, and she and Douglas make up. He agrees to help Siria catch the arsonist. Siria goes out alone one night with Major in search of a neighborhood boy they suspect. The boy points her to a runaway teen named Mike. Mike admits to having set the fires and wearing Douglas’ discarded jacket because he was cold. He had left home and was living on the streets. He tells Siria he’s going back home to his family very soon. Major had been his dog, and he asks Siria to keep him safe. Siria wishes Mike well.
Christmas and Siria’s birthday are times of celebration which include Dad, Mimi, Izzy, Douglas, Laila and Major. Siria feels she’s finally gotten many people to treat her like family, as she always wanted. She finally tells Dad all about her fire-chasing. He gets her a phone so that he can text her after each fire to tell her he’s OK.
Other Belief Systems
Siria’s mother gave her a book about stars. Siria often reads about the Native American legends and mythology used to explain the creation of the stars.
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Lying/Sneaking: Siria often sneaks out of her apartment. She frequently does this late at night. She lies to adults about what she’s doing. In the end, she tells her father everything and stops sneaking around.
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Readability Age Range
8 to 12
Patricia Reilly Giff
Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Book, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company