Brothers of the Fire Star

Brothers of the Fire Star - Douglas Arvidson

Plot Introduction: In December 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, they also bombed the island of Guam, another United States territory in the Pacific Ocean. The chaos and destruction of this even bring two boys together. One, Napu, is a native to the island, while the other, Joseph, is an American who has come to it with his uncle. The boys escape on Napu's boat and the story follows their efforts to survive in the Pacific Islands during World War II. 


Unfortunately, at this time, I was unable to find an interview with the author.




I think that the main thing that I have to say about this book is that it bored me. Everything about it did. There was very little action, very little plot beyond simply describing the boys' survival, and the boys themselves lacked depth. There were moments that should have been tragic that completely failed to make me feel any sort of emotional connection to the book. It's just over 200 pages long, but I think that even if it had only been 100 it would have felt too long. 


Part of the problem may have been that I have no interest in sailing, and this book is driven by sailing and navigation. I have to give Arvidson credit for his attempt to introduce young adults not only to another culture, but to a skill that very few people in the world possess - navigation by stars. However, his explanations, while wordy, lack clarity, and I even found the diagram that of the ship that Arvidson included in the front of the book to be unhelpful . 


The book is set during World War II, but the war plays an extremely limited role in the scope of the story. It's in the background, but for the most part, it doesn't affect the boys. I think that in some cases this could have worked - it could have been secondary to the story, supplementing it rather than being the main focus of it - but in this case, making the war a more prominent part of the story would have given it more action, something that was desperately needed. 


There were some good aspects of the story. Again, this serves as a good introduction to island culture and it will expose readers to the technique of navigation using only stars. However, for me the good parts weren't strong enough to make up for the fact that the story was so tedious. 


Recommended to: 

This would be a good introduction to island culture. It could also be used to remind students that Japanese did attack territories other than Hawaii, which is something that people often forget. I don't think that I would recommend this to anyone simply as pleasure reading, because my experience with it was was so unremarkable. That being said, this book has received high reviews on both Amazon and goodreads, and it has been nominated for several awards. If a  reader is very interested in exploration, perhaps this would be a great book for them to try. I also have asked my younger brother, Sean, who is 13 and fits the target audience, to try to read this, and I look forward to posting his reaction, good or bad.