Cover Image: The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn

The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn

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Member Reviews

This book, y’all. I am so glad that it was put on my radar because it is more than I could have guessed from the summary–I am so glad that I read it. It was a one-sitting read; I couldn’t put it down.

Sally J. Pla has crafted a book that pulls at heartstrings; has moments written in prose AND verse that are mentor texts in craft; will be a window, mirror, or sliding glass door (Sims-Bishop, 1990) for so many readers; touches on a tough subject that I truly think will help some readers with talking about their own situation; and has an amazing cast of characters!
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The Fire, The Water, and Maudie, McGinn by Sally J Pla is one of the few books I’ve read this year that dealt with neurodivergency without making you pity the main character or see them as something that needs fixing. 
Sally covers this ground in such a tender and thoughtful way. Maudie can be somewhat of a weirdo, but she isn’t anything less than authentically herself. Her “struggles” are really superpowers and she soon finds that, in the right environment, she can flourish. 
The confrontations she has with her stepfather And well-meaning people who do not understand her are reflective of confrontations kids have every day in similar situations. 
Kids across the spectrum will delight in her achievements and will hopefully better relate to others as a result.
I highly recommend this book to readers from grade 4-7.
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This is a gorgeous, ambitious and heartfelt novel celebrating neurodiversity and community while rallying against the traumatic harms of compliance-based therapy, ableism and child abuse. Maudie and the community she finds in Conwy, California are exactly the kind of found family I would want to have if I were Maudie and it was such a joy to see her character evolve as she became more comfortable in her new home. I loved the descriptions of the ocean and surfing, and thought that it served as such a wonderful way for Maudie to discover her own power. This book is also a beautiful and poignant way to begin discussing the effects of climate change with tweens in a grounded way. Some of the abuse scenes were difficult to read, but never felt too gratuitous.
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The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn has got to be the best MG book of 2023! 

Maudie McGinn dreams of the summers she gets to spend with her Dad in California, but this year she has a big secret that could change everything. As Maudie navigates a new living situation, makes new friends and learns to surf, she starts to see her autism not as a failure and begins to wonder if by speaking her secret out loud she will be able to stay with her Dad.

Sally J. Pla wrote this book so beautifully. It will make you cry, laugh with joy and feel hope. The author did such a justice to neurodiversity and includes some wonderful references to learn more at the end. Watching Maudie grow throughout the summer was such a wonderful journey. This book was difficult, and it makes you feel all the emotions-which, in my opinion, is the sign of amazing writing. Overall, this is the kind of story that will stay with you long afterwards and leaves you feeling changed for the better.

At the beginning of the book there are some trigger-warnings, make sure you pay attention to them. As stated above, there are some really hard topics addressed. Other than that I cannot think of a single reason why you should not read this book!

Overall, this is going to be in my top 10 books of the year. I learned and felt so much while reading this. I cannot wait to read it again and see what else I pick up!
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This book was amazing! Thank you Net Galley and the publisher for allowing me the honor of reading this book. The main character was authentic and her situation, while awful, felt realistic. I love the message of hope and resiliency.
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Sally J. Pla is one of my favorite authors. The way she approaches challenging topics in an appropriate way for middle grade readers is spot on. The Fire, the Water an Maudie McGinn was no different. Maudie has A LOT to deal with; her own self, her Mom, her stepdad, her current living situation and more all while trying to figure out who she is, why she is important and how she fits in to crazy middle school.
I absolutely loved the journey Maudie went on. I cried. I cringed. I laughed. I smiled. It was a sad/happy book and I highly recommend it to readers!
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I loved this middle grade novel so much! Maudie is autistic and spends the school year in Houston with her mom and stepfather, but she always looks forward to summers in the California mountains with her father. When a wildfire forces them to evacuate, Maudie and her dad and up in southern California, where Maudie takes up surfing. This novel deals with some tough topics but it is full of heart. I adored Maudie and was rooting for her the whole way through. This is a gem of a novel!
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The Real Story

A well-written book by Sally J. Pla from the eyes of an adolescent girl named Maudie with autism. She looks forward to summers with her divorced dad who accepts the real Maudie. A story of protecting others and keeping secrets while navigating life.  The poetry and figurative language helps the reader understand and empathize with a complex, misunderstood, and often lonely girl.  The unforeseen adventures of the summer help her discover her voice, some friends, and surfing. Maudie’s sensory overload descriptions and the sense of feelings of wanting to fit in make this a strong read. Maudie interacts with several multigenerational characters that help her figure out what really is important in her life. She learns much about herself as well as others while navigating in an unfair society.  I will be highly recommending this book to middle grade readers and teachers.

#TheFiretheWaterandMaudieMcGinn #NetGalley

Thank you HarperCollins Children’s Books, Quill Tree Books, and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to review this e-Advanced Reader Copy.
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Maudie McGinn is neurodivergent, but that is not her biggest problem---that would be life in Houston with her emotionally abusive mom, her physically abusive stepdad., and a rather inept counselor. For Maudie, sensory overload along with poor preparation for changes will lead to severe anxiety, and what mom calls a “meldown". Thankfully, summers with her dad in the mountains of California offer an escape to normalcy, but this year a massive fire forces their evacuation  from Dad's cabin and woodworking shop, to his beachy hometown  in southern California.  In Conwy Beach Maudie meets people who provide acceptance, friendship, and positivity. Intense but rewarding  plot with multigenerational characters who mentor Maudie in the best ways possible. 
#TheFiretheWaterandMaudieMcGinn #NetGalley 
Thank you to Quill Tree Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Children's Books, and Netgalley for the digital arc.
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The custody arrangement between Maudie's parents allows her to spend the entire summer with her father in California after finishing the school year with her mom in Texas. Every June Maudie looks forward to staying with her laid back dad whose quiet energy and acceptance of her neurodiversity is a great comfort. This summer, following her mother's marriage to a wealthy and unpredictable former athlete, Maudie needs harmonious time with her father more than ever before. Instead, the book opens with a wildfire that forces the two of them into a noisy shelter. Realizing that they will not be able to return to his cabin for many days (if at all) Maudie's dad reaches out to a friend from his youth who runs a campground on the coast of Southern California and luckily has one trailer available. After driving through much of the night Maudie wakes up to the roar of the ocean and a summer of new experiences begins to unfold. 

This middle grade novel was a wonderful presentation of a character on the autism spectrum. Maudie has real trauma to deal with over the summer which the reader finds more about slowly as her backstory is revealed. Alongside of these serious issues we see Maudie pushing herself to take chances on new experiences (surfing!) and friendships. There were many excellent moments in this novel which I am looking forward to recommending to both middle grade and young adult readers.

Thank you to HarperCollins and NetGalley for the chance to read and review an uncorrected advance copy of this book.
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One of the most powerful books I've read all year!  Maudie's voice builds to a crescendo as she finds confidence and courage to speak the truth about life with her mom and stepdad. 
13-year-old Maudie is autistic, but that seems to be all that her mom sees when she looks at Maudie. Her stepdad only sees a nuisance. Her summers with her dad in California are peaceful and affirming, and Maudie desperately wants to stay with him. But that would lead to him asking questions about the secret her mom made her promise to keep. 
This summer, Maudie's peaceful summer at Dad's cabin is thrown off-kilter when a wildfire forces them to evacuate. They drive to the town in southern California to stay at a campground owned by her dad's friend. There Maudie finds a circle of friends, learns to surf, and finds the courage to fight for herself and her safety. I love Maudie's big, accepting heart, and Sally J. Pla brings her character to life in a story that will break your heart and put it back together again. 
Thank you to @NetGalley for the eARC!
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Maudie is an autistic girl staying with her father for the summer but a California fire forces them from their cabin. She and her dad head south to where her dad grew up. A friend sets them up in an old camper at a campground near the beach. While her dad looks for work, Maudie works up her courage to ask an older surfer woman for lessons. She spends the summer worrying about her big secret and learning to surf, hoping to win the beginning surfer competition at the end of the summer. Maudie makes a new friend who is friendly and neurodiverse like her. All of these things help her consider that she is more than what her mom and her abusive stepdad think of her. This is a moving coming of age story of a girl who learns to thrive instead of survive.
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An enthralling tale, told through the eyes of a character so genuine and sincere you’ll want to dive into the pages of the book and give her a big hug.
Maudie McGinn broke my heart just a little, but also mended it back in the most warming and uplifting way possible. 
This is a book for book lovers of all ages— it will leave you wanting more from Sally J. Pla.
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Maudie is looking forward to spending the summer with her dad in his cabin in the woods, but a wildfire derails those plans and sends them to her dad's hometown and a trailer park by the beach.  Maudie is autistic but she also has a big secret that she's keeping from her dad, at her mother's request.  Maudie finds a group of friends through surfing and has big plans to try to win $1000 in a beginning surfer's contest, until her mom and stepdad show up one day early from their honeymoon to pick Maudie up.  This is wonderful story about finding your own voice and your own family.  I think kids are going to love this one, I know I did.
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Thank you NetGalley for allowing me to read the ARC for this book. This book had wonderful characters who encounter real life situations. I was completely drawn into the story and was routing for Maudie the whole time. This shines a light on what it means to be different and how we as society should be inclusive and accepting of others.
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Maudie is a sweet, autistic girl spending the summer with her dad. When her dad’s home is razed in a California wildfire, they move to the small beach town where her father grew up. Throughout the summer, as Maudie makes new friends, starts learning to surf, and enters a surfing contest, a secret tugs at her–one her mother has asked her to keep from her dad. Despite tackling serious issues like physical abuse and autism acceptance, this triumphant story feels infused with the lightness of summer as a girl discovers that she’s braver than she ever thought.
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A breathtakingly beautiful ride of a story about an unforgettable, neurodivergent heroine who feels like she's drowning "in waves of too-muchness" until she finds her people and her power—and learns to surf.

Read this book! Put it in your classroom, your library, your home. Written in pitch-perfect, intimate first person, this story explores big topics like shame, neurodivergence, and abuse with a gentle, light touch and with an emphasis on hope, resilience, and community. I hope this book gets all the attention and all the love—it deserves it!
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Ooooh, I’ve loved every one of Sally Pla’s beautiful books, and this one is no exception! 
THE FIRE, THE WATER, AND MAUDIE MCGINN is absolutely, heartbreakingly beautiful. Maudie’s parents are divorced, and she spends summer breaks with her dad. This year’s visit is marred by the displacement and trauma of a nearby wildfire, so Maudie and dad end up spending their days on the California coast. Maudie is autistic, and while the disruptions to her life have been a struggle, she begins to thrive under her dad’s gentle care. 
Middle grade readers will love connecting with Maudie and her journey.
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An absolutely beautiful, thoughtful, propulsive read! I didn't want this book to end! Maudie is relatable and lovable and readers will root for her, as I did.
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“When dogs or people tell you no, I think you just have to respect that…He tried it for us. He gave it a shot. He was a good sport. And he’s rejected it. So, I think we have to listen.”

WOW--I absolutely LOVED The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn! I picked this up over a weekend and devoured it. It's so rare I can 100% get behind a book, but this is one that I absolutely can recommend and cheer on!

As an autistic person, I relate so much to Maudie, who feels that she's “churning in waves of too-muchness." There's a specific scene with her joking with a "not the droids you're looking for" reference that's misinterpreted and unappreciated, and I felt that in the deepest part of my being. How she describes herself as "a girl with glitches," who can't always process things right away was incredibly relatable. I also felt so, so deeply her misbelief that she needs to be clay to please others: “If you’re clay, you can mold and adapt to the new. And that’s what I always do. Mold myself into this or that kind of kid. Adapt. At school, or for Mom, for Mrs. Jills, for Ron, for the other kids at school . . . I try hard to be the right kind of Maudie for each situation, for each thing.” I guess I could spend a lot of time referencing everything I connected to, so I'll move on!

Maudie thinks little of herself, having constantly been told by her mother and step-father how incapable, challenged and "broken" she is, shaming her for her autistic mannerisms. This was so painful to read but so realistic to how many autistic folks are treated, and I really appreciated that Pla didn't hold back. The story shows how awful and traumatizing ABA therapy is, and how even well-meaning "Autism Moms" can cause more damage than good, trying to make their neurodivergent child conform to neurotypical expectations and not listening to or trying to understand their needs. The example with her mom's "autism awareness" sob story video on how difficult it is to be an Autism Mom with a "not normal child" was WAY too real. With so many awful, problematic books out there by "Autism Moms" trying to write from (and misappropriate) their autistic kid's perspective, I really appreciated how refreshing it was to see the opposite: an autistic kid pointing out how painful these inconsiderate and not-understanding parents can be. I also love that there's hope at the end, where the mom seems to become aware of the damage she's caused and seeks to change, as well as dimensionality to the mom, where we can see that she upholds "normal" standards as a sort of survival technique, probably in response to her own trauma. I would LOVE to see more critiques of ABA and problematic Autism Moms in kidlit!

While Maudie's mom and step dad are varying levels of Absolute Awful, her dad is incredibly supportive and suggested to also be neurodivergent, which was so lovely and wholesome to see. Her relationship with Etta as a surfer-mentor was also super sweet and wholesome. Seeing someone stand up for her despite the Bystander Effect was such an awesome model of how we can stand up for others that we see in troubling situations. 

“Why can’t people just be decent to each other?” Maudie asks. Great question. 

I really enjoyed the verse and part of me wished the whole novel was in verse. At first, the hybrid format of verse and prose was jarring to me, but with time I ended up appreciating the effect of switching between the two, and I think this is the first time I've seen this form in a novel. The chapters are short and function like prose-poems, making it easy to keep turning the pages. 

Maudie is a protagonist you can't help but love and want to cheer on to succeed. I appreciate the nuance to this story, that it does a great job of showing what's awful while also modeling good responses, and distinguishing things like "tough discipline" vs abuse and hitting a limit vs not trying something new and hard. This is a fantastic book about "learning to explore [your] strengths" instead of being made to "feel bad about [your] weaknesses."An absolutely wonderful, important book for kids that don’t have a voice and may not be able to identify abuse or know how to talk about it. Fantastic for autistic and allistic readers alike.
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