The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn

Children - Coming of Age
336 Pages
Reviewed on 09/17/2023
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Author Biography

Sally J. Pla's books have been translated into many languages, garnered starred reviews, appeared on many ‘best book’ and state lists, and picked up a few awards, but the best thing they’ve done has been to connect her to wonderful readers. The Someday Birds, Stanley Will Probably Be Fine, Benji, The Bad Day, And Me, and her latest, The Fire, The Water, and Maudie McGinn, all portray young people who see the world a bit differently. Because we are all stars shining with different lights.

Sally has English degrees from Colgate and Penn State, and has worked as a journalist and in public education. She lives by lots of lemon trees in Southern California. Find her at

    Book Review

Reviewed by Cloie Belle Daffon for Readers' Favorite

Maudie's summer with her dad in California marks the beginning of Sally J Pla’s The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn. Ever since her parents divorced, she would usually spend summers with her father in Molinas, but she is supposed to live with her mother and new stepfather, Ron, in Houston during the school year. Although Maudie always looked forward to spending the summer with her father, something was off this year. She had to keep a terrible secret from her father that her mother had urged her not to reveal. In addition to this secret, a wildfire had erupted, forcing many residents, including Maudie and her father, to evacuate. When they arrived at the beach town where her father grew up, she discovered something new she wanted to learn when she watched people riding the waves, but she wasn't sure if she could accomplish such a great feat. Additionally, she made some new acquaintances. Changes kept happening, and these changes were quite overwhelming, especially for Maudie who was neurodivergent. With all this, her secret was in danger of coming out. Will Maudie be able to accept these changes and carry out her wishes? Will she be able to finally reveal the terrible secret to her father?

The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn by Sally J Pla is a well-written, enlightening, and well-paced story. This book has been beneficial to me, especially since I have people close to me who are quite similar to the lovely Maudie. Pla took the time to thoroughly describe sensory overload as well as include some ideas and tactics to soothe individuals who experience it. I thoroughly enjoyed Maudie's summer vacation with her father in the beach town. I could feel the joy and excitement of Maudie and her father's activities and party. I was also pleased to see how Maudie's surfing lessons turned out. I was getting anxious to see how Maudie would handle the awful secret of her life with her mother and how she would end her summer vacation as things progressed. I'd grown so attached to her character throughout the novel that my heart ached when Maudie was going through a difficult period or having a panic attack, and I would end up beaming when she was having the best day possible. At one point, I was even angry at anything that made Maudie upset. This book made me feel a roller coaster of emotions, but it's been fun. Outstanding work!