1. Author: Gary Paulsen His stories are often about tough reality and tough children

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The Fire Builder

20 – 31

1. Author: Gary Paulsen – His stories are often about tough reality and tough children.
2. Illustrator: Renee Reichert – She says she is “inspired by both the beautiful and the absurd.”
3. Genre: Realistic Fiction

* Characters behave as real people or animals

* Setting is real or could be real.

* Events could happen in real life.

* Conflicts are similar to those of real life.
4. Theme: Perseverance. Brian knows he can’t give up if he is going to survive.
5. Setting: Near a lake in the northern Canadian woods.
6. Plot: 13 year old Brian is the sole survivor of a plane crash in the northern Canadian woods. Hungry and in pain he arduously battles the brutal conditions of the wilderness. He learns that a fire is key to his survival and would prevent wild animals from attacking him, but he must figure out how to build one. With just his hatchet to aid him, Brian races against time.
7. Point of View: 3rd Person
8. Author’s Purpose: Entertain. This is an adventure story.
9. Concepts/Questions: Self-pity is not helpful in desperate situations.

Perseverance can be motivated by self-preservation.

Prior knowledge, imagination, and persistence are essential in survival situations.

Why did Brian have a dream right after the porcupine attack?

Did Brian cry as he pulled out the quills?
10. Vocabulary: flue vicious depression (not feeling) gingerly

self-pity hordes tinder skittered smoldered

Summary: When Brian’s plane crashes, he has to figure out how to survive in the wilderness. He has a little food, but no protection. He encounters bear and weather, and is attacked by a porcupine. Shortly after the attack, he has a dream that involves his father and a BBQ. There is a message for Brian in the story, and he soon realizes that fire is necessary. He discovers a creative way to use his hatchet to generate a spark, which eventually leads to a fire. This little spark becomes his friend and his guard.

The Fire Builder – Review Questions

1. What happens to the pilot of the plane? (20)

2. What tool did Brian have that his mother gave him? (20)

3. Brian found that the wilderness had vicious mosquitoes and flies. What does vicious mean? (20)

4. How does Brian know that an animal is in the shelter with him? (21)

5. What does Brian do when he hears the sound near his feet? (21)

6. What causes the pain in his leg? (21)

7. How did Brian deal with the physical and emotional problems he faced? (22)

8. Why was Brian crying? (22)

9. What does Brian consider to be the first rule of survival? (23)

10. In Brian’s dream, what is his father trying to do? (23)

11. What does Brian’s friend Terry point to in his dream? (24)

12. Why was fire so important to Brian? (23)

13. Why did he realize that he shouldn’t have thrown the hatchet? (24)

14. What does Brian realize that he can do with his hatchet to help himself survive? (25)

15. What does Brian do with his $20 bill? (26)

16. What does Brian do to the birchbark to make it burn? (27)

17. How did Brian accomplish his goal of starting a fire? (28)

18. What 3 things did Brian need for fire? (28)

19. What does Brian’s fire become to him? (29)

20. Why does the author write this selection?

The Fire Builder

Comprehension Strategies:

Preview: Without reading (look at titles, pictures…) make 3 predictions about this story.



Monitor & Clarify: Record and define 5 vocabulary words.

1. flue

2. self-pity

3. smoldered

4. vicious

5. skittered


Ask 3 questions about what you are reading.




In 4-5 good sentences, summarize the story.

Tie to the Theme:

How does this story relate to the theme “Perseverance?” Give examples to provide evidence.

Comprehension Skills:

Author’s Purpose:

The author’s purpose is his or her reason for presenting the selection in a certain way. An author may have more than one purpose for writing. Good readers look for the overall purpose, as well as for the purpose of individual passages in a selection.

1. What is the author‘s purpose in writing the short story “The Fire Builder”?

What evidence supports the purpose?

2. In the second paragraph on page 22, the author’s purpose is to inform us how painful the wounds made by the porcupine quills are. How does the author accomplish this purpose?

3. In the dream sequence on pages 23-24, how does the author accomplish the purpose of entertaining readers?

How does the author inform the reader on these pages?

4. How does the author achieve the purpose of entertaining the reader on pages 26-27?

5. On page 28 the author describes how close Brian is to starting a fire. What does Brian realize he needs?”

Checking Comprehension

1. What were the conditions Brian faced inside the cave?

2. What actions did Brian take that show his determination to survive?

  1. Perseverance often requires being resourceful. How did Brian’s resourcefulness help him build his fire?

Liz Perry, 2004

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