Database syndict: Unavailable. (Failed to open b-tree)
Database syndict: Synonym dictionary unavailable

Children's Literature Reviews
Item 1 of 1

Forged by fire
Sharon M. Draper.
Contributor biographical information
Publisher description
New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1997.
151 p. ; 22 cm.


Companion volume to: Tears of a tiger.
Teenage Gerald, who has spent years protecting his fragile half-sister from their abusive father, faces the prospect of one final confrontation before the problem can be solved.

Best Books:

Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for PreK-Grade 6, 12th Edition, 1999 ; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
Books for You: An Annotated Booklist for Senior High, Fourteenth Edition, 2001 ; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
Los Angeles' 100 Best Books, 1997 ; IRA Children's Literature and Reading SIG and the Los Angeles Unified School District; United States
Middle And Junior High School Library Catalog, Eighth Edition, 2000 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Middle and Junior High School Library Catalog, Ninth Edition, 2005 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 1998 ; American Library Association; United States
YALSA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, 2002 ; American Library Association; United States
YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 1998 ; American Library Association; United States

Awards, Honors, Prizes:

Coretta Scott King Book Award, 1998 Winner Author United States
Parents' Choice Award, 1997 Gold Story Books United States
Young Hoosier Book Award, 2001 Winner Grades 6-8 Indiana

State and Provincial Reading Lists:

Nevada Young Readers' Award, 2000 ; Nominee; Young Adult; Nevada
Young Adult Reading Program, 1999 ; Grades 7-12; South Dakota
Young Hoosier Book Award, 2000-2001 ; Nominee; Middle Grades 6-8; Indiana

Curriculum Tools:

Link to Coretta Scott King curricular resources at

Reading Measurement Programs:

Accelerated Reader
Interest Level Middle Grade
Book Level 4.7
Accelerated Reader Points 5

Lexile, MetaMetrics, Inc.
Lexile Measure 780

Reading Counts-Scholastic
Interest Level High School
Reading Level 5
Title Point Value 7
Lexile Measure 780


Candace Smith (Booklist, February 15, 1997 (Vol. 93, No. 12))
Gerald Nickelby, a minor character in Tears of a Tiger (1994), emerges full-fledged and courageous in this companion story. His stable life with a firm but loving aunt (who is caring for him while his mother serves a prison sentence for child neglect) is shattered when his mother returns to claim him on his ninth birthday. With her is a young daughter, Angel, to whom Gerald is drawn, and her husband, Jordan, whom Gerald instinctively dislikes. When Gerald learns that Jordan is sexually abusing Angel, he risks physical assault and public embarrassment to rescue her. Although written in a more conventional form than the earlier novel, the dialogue is still convincing, and the affection between Angel and Gerald rings true. With so much tragedy here (the car crash and death of Gerald's friend Rob in Tears are again recounted, though Draper, thankfully, stops before Andy Jackson's suicide), there is some danger of overloading the reader. Nevertheless, Draper faces some big issues (abuse, death, drugs) and provides concrete options and a positive African American role model in Gerald. Category: Older Readers. 1997, Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, $16. Gr. 7-10.

Susie Wilde (Children's Literature)
It was a big year for Sharon M. Draper who won the Coretta Scott King novel award and was also named the 1997 National Teacher of the Year. The book serves as testimony to her commitment to honestly revealing what she sees in classrooms. It is the story of Gerald who, in early life, almost dies in a fire when his abusive mother deserts him to search for drugs. Until he's nine, he thrives when his tough and loving Aunt Queen takes hold of him. But at nine, his mom's back with an abusive husband and a small sister who he's determined to protect. His reliance and courage gives witness to the spirit of the suffering young. 1997, Simon & Schuster, $16.00 and $3.99. Ages 11 up.

Gisela Jernigan, Ph.D. (Children's Literature)
As a neglected toddler of a drug-addict mother, Gerald almost burns to death in his apartment. Rescued by his strong, loving Aunt Queen, Gerald enjoys a warm secure life for a few years; unfortunately, Aunt Queen dies and Gerald's mother and a cruel, abusive stepfather enter his life. The only positive part of this new family is his gentle, younger, half-sister, Angel whom he struggles to protect from his evil stepfather. The author, winner of the 1995 Coretta Scott King Genesis Award, does a good job of depicting Gerald at different ages and stages of his life, from age three to age 17. Social issues are skillfully interwoven into a realistic novel with an admirable protagonist and a page-turning plot. 1997, Atheneum, $16.00. Ages 12 up.

Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, 1997)
An African-American boy grows into a decent man, a loving brother, and a steadfast son despite the cruelties of his childhood in this latest novel by Draper (Tears of a Tiger, 1994, not reviewed, etc.). Although three-year-old Gerald is burned in the fire caused by his drag-addicted mother Monique's recklessness, his life takes a turn for the better: The court sends him to live with his aunt, Queen. Wheelchair-bound and poor, Queen has a loving heart and boundless spirit that nourish and cultivate Gerald for six years, until his mother walks back into his life. When Queen abruptly dies, Gerald moves into Monique's home, where he becomes devoted to his younger half-sister, Angel, and suffers at the hands of his mother's new husband. Jordan is a bully, drunk, and child molester; while Angel and Gerald get him convicted (the police show up as Jordan is about to abuse Angel), he eventually returns to haunt the family after serving his jail term. While Draper's narrative is riveting, it is also rife with simplistic characterizations: Aunt Queen is all-good, Monique is all-stupid, and Jordan is all-evil. In addition, there are enough logical twists in the plot without the seemingly gratuitous death of Gerald's friend, Rob. A touching story, burdened by contrivances. 1997, Atheneum, $16.00. © 1997 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

Mary J. Arnold (KLIATT Review, July 1998 (Vol. 32, No. 4))
More a corollary and expansion using some of the same locations and characters as her powerful Tears of a Tiger, here we follow Gerald Nickelby's formative years, with a seesaw of abuse and neglect balanced by the supportive, loving care of the aunt who raises Gerald after his mother is imprisoned for leaving him alone to face a deadly house fire. His world is turned upside down yet again when his mother, out of prison and newly married, returns to claim him, Aunt Queen dies, and Gerald is forced to deal once again with insecurity, anger and abuse from his new stepfather. But it is his growing fear for and urge to protect his young stepsister, Angel, that sparks a climactic confrontation with the demons of his past. Draper again dramatizes the risks which so many urban YAs face in the already difficult coming-of-age process. An afterword indicates that the first chapter started as a short story, and it contains the strongest emotional impact and presents Gerald's thought processes more completely than the subsequent developments. While the characters and situations are undeniably dramatic, there is sometimes a flat feel to the writing, with the focus on the relentless progress to an almost foregone conclusion. But the positive messages of self-worth and self-reliance shine through. KLIATT Codes: JS--Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 1997, Simon & Schuster/Aladdin, 156p. 18cm. 96-2763, $3.99. Ages 13 to 18.

Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
This prequel to Draper's Tears of a Tiger is a stark portrayal of a young man struggling to protect his little sister from a drug-addicted mother and an abusive father. Ages 10-up. (Jan.)

Deborah Stevenson (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, June 1997 (Vol. 50, No. 10))
Gerald's life is haunted early: when he's only three, he accidentally sets fire to the apartment where his drug-addicted mother, Monique, has left him alone. After she's imprisoned for neglect, he lives with his indomitable great-aunt Queen, but when Monique is released from prison (with a new husband and a daughter, Angel, born during her incarceration) he ends up living with her following Aunt Queen's sudden death. Gerald bonds with his little sister but hates and fears his abusive stepfather, who soon also goes to prison for his molestation of Angel; unfortunately he is eventually released, and his hold over the family becomes stronger when Monique is seriously injured in an accident. Then Gerald's friend Rob dies, and then there's another fire which kills the stepfather. It's all too much for the reader as well as Gerald, and the writing isn't capable of turning this sequence of events into something other than relentless melodrama that ultimately numbs rather than engages. There's also a tendency for the point of view to wander, especially at the beginning, which makes it hard to focus as firmly on Gerald as one might wish. The relationships between Gerald and Rob's supportive family and between Gerald and Angel are strong and appealing, but that's not enough to overcome the heavy-handed plotting. M--Marginal book that is so slight in content or has so many weaknesses in style or format that it should be given careful consideration before purchase. (c) Copyright 1997, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 1997, Atheneum, 151p, $16.00. Grades 7-10.

Kevin Beach and Dr. Beverly B. Youree (VOYA, June 1997 (Vol. 20, No. 2))
What started out as an award-winning short story in Ebony magazine was expanded into this sad but inspirational story about a young man trying to escape the horrors of a dysfunctional family. As a toddler, Gerald was left alone at home one day while his mother went out to buy street drugs, only one of several irresponsible acts committed by her in the story. Rescued by a neighbor after fire breaks out in the apartment, Gerald is sent to live with strong-willed but loving Aunt Queen. There he thrives until on his ninth birthday his mother returns from jail with a new husband, Jordan Sparks, in tow. Gerald also discovers he has a kid sister, Angel, who was born in jail and apparently has already suffered a series of abuses in her six years. Angel immediately clutches onto Gerald for love and protection, and he responds. Life is hard in a new household run by an angry, abusive, demanding stepfather and a compliant mother, but Gerald manages to keep Angel away from the stepdad most of the time and finds time to develop his skills in high school as a basketball player. Angel blossoms into a passionate dancer, but the shadow of their sullen stepfather and deteriorating mother continues to cause difficulties. Other tragedies befall the family and one of Gerald's friends before another fire culminates a final confrontation between Gerald and his stepfather. This is a companion to the author's Tears of a Tiger (Atheneum, 1994/VOYA February 1995), a story about one of Gerald's basketball teammates. Prevalent in today's teenagers is Gerald's attitude that he can take care of himself; he is a determined young black man. With non-stop excitement, this is well written, easy to read, and possibly an inspiration for anyone trapped in family situations involving child abuse or domestic violence. This tremendous novel by the 1995 winner of the Coretta Scott King Genesis Award is recommended for all YA collections. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 1997, Atheneum/S & S, 151p., $16.00. Ages 11 to 15.


Child abuse Fiction.
Stepfamilies Fiction.
Brothers and sisters Fiction.
African Americans Fiction.
LanguageCall NumberLCCNDewey DecimalISBN/ISSN
English (eng) PZ7.D78325 Fo 1997
96002763 [Fic]
View the WorldCat Record for this item.