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Night on Fire

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4.07  ·  Rating details ·  488 ratings  ·  105 reviews
Thirteen-year-old Billie Simms doesn't think her hometown of Anniston, Alabama, should be segregated, but few of the town's residents share her opinion. As equality spreads across the country and the Civil Rights Movement gathers momentum, Billie can't help but feel stuck--and helpless--in a stubborn town too set in its ways to realize that the world is passing it by. So w ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 1st 2015 by Albert Whitman & Company
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Average rating 4.07  · 
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 ·  488 ratings  ·  105 reviews


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Becky Shaknovich
Jul 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Night on Fire is pretty darn amazing. I got this ARC at BookExpo America. When I first started reading, and realized that this piece of historical fiction centered around a white girl, I thought it might be one of those books about how the white girl swoops in and "saves" the black folks. But this wasn't that. Instead, the main character Billie is very real, and honest in a way that few of us can be, even with ourselves. Billie starts out thinking that she's not a racist, but over time she learn ...more
Betsy
First reviewed on Literaritea

What It Is: Historical Fiction set in 1960s Anniston, AL

What It’s About: Billie Sims has her eyes opened to the latent prejudice around her when the Freedom Riders’ bus gets mobbed at its stop in Anniston (her home town). She starts to see how she has been [unintentionally] racist towards her family’s maid, particularly as she gets to know Jarmaine, the maid’s daughter. The girls end up sneaking off to ride a bus to Montgomery so they can see the Freedom Riders and M
...more
Lauren Murray
Nov 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Another important story for middle aged readers, and done in a way that give enough background to give context, but also not make it sound like a history class.

Jarmaine is one kick-ass chick... I can only hope to raise my daughter as aware and vocal as she is in this novel. Definitely the high light for me.

Billie (the narrator) wasn't my favorite, and I know that's not her fault. The conflicts she goes through with prejudice, privilege, and segregation are authentic, but a lot of what I didn't
...more
Kimberly
This one is right on the cusp of J fiction and YA. An older reader would probably find it lacking depth, as I did. For the kids in 4th-6th grade (and some 7th and 8th graders) this is a good choice of fiction depicting the civil rights unrest of the early 1960s. My frustration with this book was how didactic it is in some places. Billie realizes very very quickly that she is prejudiced and needs very little motivation to try to change. She's almost an empty character waiting to be filled up with ...more
Brandy Painter
Dec 03, 2015 rated it did not like it
The writing in this book is fine. Probably 3 stars for that. The characters are fairly flat and the overall tone didactic, but it's not terrible. I'm just burnt out on all of these books written about the Civil Rights movement from the point of view of white girls whose eyes are opened to the atrocities of segregation by a black friend. There are multiple issues I have with this continued narrative, the biggest one being that it centers a white hero at the center of a black struggle and reduces ...more
Jill Thennes
Jun 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! I couldn’t put it down!!!! After reading it, I am evaluating how I think about race and how I can support the current situation in our country.
Jennifer
I wasn't highly impressed with this Civil Rights era historical novel for middle graders. It's failings included hard-to-relate-to characters, lack of historical feel (thoughts and feelings that seemed out of place), clunky writing, oddly unmoving descriptions of very horrible events, and a heavy-handedness in its moral points. It was a decent vehicle for teaching historical facts, but didn't really accomplish much more than that.
Ben Ace
Holy problematic book! By the time I got to about Chapter 25, I was just reading dialogue and skimming paragraphs because I couldn't get myself to keep pretending to care about the story. *sigh* Alright, lots to talk about and call out here. But first order of business, I am adding a disclaimer here that I'm white, so I can't catch every little thing that's wrong in this story. Honestly, the only reason I'm writing so much because it looks like only a couple other people have called anything out ...more
Julie
Mar 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastic novel! While many of the characters are fictional, the events are true, making it all the more powerful and meaningful.
Kathleen Duffy
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Quick, engaging read on Freedom Riders! Love the mix of fact & fiction to bring the story to life!! ...more
Kristi Bernard
Nov 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: multicultural

Billie Sims lives in the town of Anniston, Alabama. In her time blacks are segregated from whites. It’s just the way it is and in the 13 years of her life she’d never known any other way. When a bus full of Freedom Riders is attacked in her town she watches as the violence towards the blacks on the bus unfolds. The police, along with her father, did nothing to help. When she meets and befriends her maid’s daughter Jarmaine, her life begins to change.

Billie and Jarmaine get on a bus to Birmingham
...more
Kate
"Why do people hate each other? If a law is bad, should you break it? How can good people be so cruel?" These are questions Billie Simms, a white girl living in Alabama in 1961, asks herself. Billie hears about a brave group of people called the Freedom Riders who are making a stand by riding in the front of the bus to protest segregation. Much to Billie's surprise and excitement, the Freedom Riders are passing through her town. Many people from her town, including members of the KKK do not feel ...more
Destinee Sutton
Jun 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I liked that the white girl at the center of this story set in 1961 was realistically portrayed as a child who had inherited racist views from her family. It seems like in children's historical fiction, young white American characters are somehow untainted by the culture of white supremacy that surrounds them. This story really examines how you can think you are a good person from a nice family (as Billie does) but be completely blind to what is really going on. Billie slowly wakes up to the inj ...more
Miranda
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Valerie McEnroe
This book has been on my 'To Read' shelf for awhile and I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. It's also been on the shelf at my school library sitting there quietly, hoping to be checked out. I don't recommend books I haven't read, so I feel like I've done a disservice to this book, waiting so long to read it. Many of my students loved The Lions of Little Rock, and I'm thrilled to have another civil rights book to recommend. This one is easy to get into, easy to read, and for me, a page ...more
Liz Friend
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
The story: Billie Sims doesn't think her little town of Anniston, Alabama is segregated--until she sees the ugly reality of events in 1961, when a group calling themselves the Freedom Riders de-segregates a Greyhound bus and tries to go from Virginia to New Orleans. Right outside her hometown, the bus is stopped, set on fire, and the riders are nearly killed. Billie knows things need to change--but is she brave enough to stand up herself?

June Cleaver's ratings: Language PG; Violence PG-13; Sexua
...more
Teresa
This was an interesting, insider's view of the freedom riders and what it would be like to realize, growing up in the south, that your family was racist and you're racist-- without knowing it, without ever having thought about it. Billie realizes that her black maid/housekeeper/nanny has a daughter, has a family.
After Billy meets Lavender's daughter Jarmaine and is intrigued and excited about the idea of the freedom riders she decides she wants to take part and not just be a watcher. She realiz
...more
Andrea
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya, bookcon-2016
This was an excellent middle grade/YA book that I received at BookCon 2016! It’s a story that talks about history into the civil rights movement and a white girl (Billie) befriending a Negro (Jarmaine) coming to realize that the world she knows and the world her new friend knows are two different places. It’s honest enough for kids but in a way they understand.

The story takes place in Alabama and Billie goes with her friend to Montgomery (they both sneak out and take a bus by themselves) to see
...more
Summer Kartchner Olsen
This was a well-written book about an important historical civil rights event that I didn't know much about. I thought that sensitive issues were handled in an age-appropriate manner for the intended audience, and the book was still really interesting to me as an adult. Many of the questions that the protagonists asks herself about her own beliefs and prejudices and questions that we should all ask ourselves on a regular basis, especially in light of the current civil rights issues in America.

On
...more
Stephanie
May 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Thirteen year old Billie lives happily in Anniston, Alabama, where her only exposure to black people is her family's full time maid, Lavender. The Civil Rights Movement seems like something that happens somewhere else, until a bus of Freedom Riders heading through town is attacked and destroyed by white adults. Billie watches in silence, but she begins to question her own actions and those of the people she has known all her life. This book is unique in that Billie is so casually full of prejudi ...more
Erin Michele
Jun 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Having read the March trilogy, I was a little skeptical that the story of the Freedom Riders told from a white girl's perspective would be as strong or as engaging for me as the stories from the Jim Crow South written from the perspective of POC. While Billie Simms doesn't grab me the same way that John Lewis and Stella did, and while I remain uncomfortable centering a white girl in this story of the true sacrifice and courage from communities of color, I think this is a good read for white chil ...more
Heidi Busch
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens
An important telling of the events surrounding the Freedom Riders in 1961 Alabama. Told from the perspective of Billie, a teenage girl, who lives life in her town without really noticing segregation, because “it’s just the way it’s always been.” Moving through her increasing awareness of how segregated communities don’t always have to stay the same and her growing understanding of the world beyond her community, we as readers also grow in our own knowledge of the events of a few weeks in Alabama ...more
Melissa
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book a lot, but I wish that the story had been told from more than Billie's perspective. While I enjoyed Billie as a narrator and character, since this is a Civil Rights story, it seemed like it should have been told from more than a white girl's perspective.

Despite that, I quite enjoyed the story, Billie, and the theme of how people who don't actively help in the face in injustice are allowing the injustice to continue. Overall, I would recommend the book.
Lisa Mcbroom
Thirteen Billie Sims lives with her mother, father and little brother Royal. Her life is normal doing normal things such as having a crush on the boy next door among other things. Set in the 1961 during the bus strike also tells the factual story of 12 year old Janey Forsythe who brought water and the bandages to those that were beaten. During this time the fictional character of Billie Sims must stand up for what she believes.
Susan Eberhardt
Sep 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting story, set in 1961 in Alabama. Two girls the same age, one white, one dark, connected through Lavender, mother of one of the girls and servant to the family of the other girl. Freedom Riders, a meeting with Martin Luther King Jr., and a new understanding of prejudice among otherwise good people make this book a great read to help understand the concept of Civil Rights.
Stacy Stoker
Mar 16, 2019 rated it liked it
“The bell was silent, but inside me it kept on ringing.” This quote sums up the book- an event that is over, but keeps impacting how we respond to the world. This book was a good read about an event that inspired a young girl to think deeply about her view of the world. The characters were complex and illustrated that none of us are all good or all bad. Worth reading.
Nancy Alexander
Mar 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Although told from the point of view of the 13 year old white girl, it’s a well researched telling of the Freedom Riders and what happened in Anniston AL on Mothers’ Day 1963. There’s not a lot of historical fiction on the Freedom Riders, and this young adult novel works well for 6 th and 7 th graders.
Sarah
Apr 07, 2018 rated it liked it
CK taught this book in spring of 2018. The kids liked it. She used it as an opportunity to talk about white privilege. Acknowledging that it's another Mockingbird-esque white Southern girl narrator. The black lead is given more complexity
Brownell Library
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Genre: Historical Fiction

13 year old Billie Simms does not like segregation. She hopes the Freedom Riders will come through her quiet little town and bring about change. Through her own decisions and actions and a few unlikely friendships, Billie is about to come to grips with the deep-seated prejudice of those she thought she knew and with her own inherent racism that she didn't even know she had.
Teresa Piette
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good historical fiction alternative for low readers. Freedom Riders
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The Young Adult H...: Night on Fire - May's Group Read 2 10 May 14, 2016 05:49PM  

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Ronald Kidd is the author of thirteen novels for young readers, including the highly acclaimed “Night on Fire” and “Monkey Town: The Summer of the Scopes Trial.” His novels of adventure, comedy, mystery, and American history have received the Children's Choice Award, an Edgar Award nomination, and honors from the American Library Association, the International Reading Association, the Library of C ...more

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