Fire on Headless Mountain

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Published by: Margaret Ferguson Books
Release Date: August 23, 2022
Pages: 256
ISBN13: 978-0823452934


Separated from his siblings in the midst of a dangerous forest fire, 11-year-old Virgil must find a way to survive using only his wits and the lessons his late mother taught him about the wilderness.

Virgil is making his older siblings trek to a mountain lake on a trip unlike any they’ve have taken before. They carry precious cargo: the ashes of their beloved mother, who asked that her remains be scattered at her favorite spot. But when a forest fire is sparked by a bolt of lightning at the exact moment when their van breaks down, the journey quickly turns to disaster.

While the oldest, Josh, is gone to find help, Virgil and his sister, Kaitlyn, spot fleeing animals and soon see flames flickering above the tree line. Once the sky begins to darken with the haze of burning timber, Virgil finds himself separated from his sister and left alone in the wilderness. He isn’t sure he can make it, but with the memory of his late mother, a science teacher, and all her lessons to guide him, he quickly learns that not everything has a perfect explanation and survival starts with letting go.

Fire on Headless Mountain showcases not only the overwhelming beauty and terrifying power of nature, but also the gift of memory when facing great emotional and physical trials. Lessons on ecosystems and fire safety are also seamlessly interwoven into this thrilling adventure tale.


“Vividly wrought, scientifically grounded text layers facts to develop the protagonists’ plight, while occasionally pace-slowing flashbacks hint at their parents’ differing worldviews. Lawrence (Deadman’s Castle) draws from his experience fighting forest fires; that expertise informs harrowing descriptions of the out-of-control blaze, creating an elucidating and hopeful portrait of grief amid the natural world. Characters cue as white.” —Publishers Weekly

“This page-turning and atmospheric adventure story also teaches fascinating science skills. A superb tale of survival and courage.”

“…richly imaginative survival adventure…a nail-biting read, sure to satisfy fans of Paulsen's Hatchet.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Johns Hopkins University Press