They Hold the Line: Wildfires, Wildlands, and the Firefighters Who Brave Them (Hardcover)

They Hold the Line: Wildfires, Wildlands, and the Firefighters Who Brave Them By Dan Paley, Molly Mendoza (Illustrator) Cover Image

They Hold the Line: Wildfires, Wildlands, and the Firefighters Who Brave Them (Hardcover)

By Dan Paley, Molly Mendoza (Illustrator)


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A 2023 Chicago Public Library Best Book 

A tribute to the unsung heroes of firefighting that takes readers along on a high-stakes mission to battle one of the deadliest natural disasters.

A lone figure stands on a tower, watching and waiting. Lightning strikes. Tree bark sparks. A wisp of white smoke rises in the distance. It is time to act.
Frightening images of raging wildfires top the daily news. On the ground, smoke fills the air as people prepare to flee their homes ahead of encroaching flames. Who helps to get this crisis under control? And what do these heroes do? They hold the line.
They Hold the Line delivers a dramatic inside look at the work of the highly trained first responders who risk their lives to fight wildfires. From hotshot handcrews to those who support them, wildland firefighters serve as stewards of the land, managing the health of our forests and the safety of our communities.

Powerfully written by Dan Paley and brought vividly to life by Caldecott Honor-winning artist Molly Mendoza, this compelling and informative book explores wildland firefighters’ complex jobs in a fascinating and approachable way. Thoroughly researched and packed with graphics, labels, sidebars, vocabulary, scientific concepts, historical facts, and so much more, They Hold the Line is an outstanding resource for young readers, families, communities, classrooms, and libraries.

" A spectacular, up-close look at heroic firefighting."—Booklist, starred review

"Energetic and engrossing."—Horn Book Magazine, starred review

REAL-LIFE INSPIRATION: The author was inspired to write this book by a question his sons asked as they watched fires rage from their Southern California home in August 2018: "Who protects us from the fires?" This book is an attempt to answer that question.

TIMELY NONFICTION PICTURE BOOK: As fires rage over a wider swath of the United States and countries across the globe, and as fire season lengthens year over year, this book will resonate with anyone who has been impacted. And as these fires make national and international news, there’s an increasing need for resources even for kids who aren’t affected directly.

IMPORTANT RESOURCE BOOK: For families and communities experiencing the aftermath of a fire or other natural disaster, this book provides incredible insight into firefighters' responsibilities. It can also encourage neighboring communities to empathize and help those in need.

FIREFIGHTER BOOK FOR KIDS: Firefighters are perennially popular with young kids as they visit fire trucks and stations, dress up as firefighters, and learn about public service professions. They Hold the Line introduces the roles that make up firefighting crews, explores firefighting techniques, and takes an engaging graphic nonfiction approach to the fascinating topics of fire, firefighting, and fire safety.
EXPERT AUTHOR: Dan Paley’s background in public policy and planning, as well as science communication, makes him uniquely qualified to educate readers on this complex topic.

Perfect for: 
  • Young readers fascinated by firefighters, fire truck crews, and natural disasters
  • Teachers, librarians, and parents seeking accessible nonfiction books for boys and girls
  • Readers who enjoy graphic nonfiction books
  • Anyone affected by wildfires/wildfire season
Dan Paley has an undergraduate degree in geography and planning and a graduate degree in science writing. He was inspired to create this book when, looking from the doorstep of his family home at fire on a distant ridge, he reassured his three young sons that expert firefighters were there to help. He lives with his family in Irvine, California. Learn more at
Molly Mendoza is a Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator. They explore the complexities of interpersonal relationships through their work and strive to portray those feelings that we just can’t shake, depicting emotions from fiery anger to the roar of joy through rhythmic mark and bold color. Their practice has expanded into comics, editorial work, painting, and murals. When they aren’t telling stories or drawing big tears, they are probably hanging out with their cat, Doodle. Molly currently lives in Portland, Oregon. Learn more at
Product Details ISBN: 9781797214504
ISBN-10: 1797214500
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: September 19th, 2023
Pages: 44
Language: English
“Paley’s well-researched text operates on three levels to efficiently convey a substantial amount of information… Mendoza’s digital art brings a deeply felt intensity to the scenes.” — The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books.

“Paley and Mendoza’s informative picture book gives readers a full view of the effort that goes into protecting homes, people, and habitats when these all-too-common out-of-control fires endanger lives. Paley’s clear text… follows a team of firefighters from the first indication of a blaze until the last embers are extinguished. Mendoza’s graphically striking art is energetic and engrossing.” — Horn Book Magazine, Starred Review

“A spectacular, up-close look at heroic firefighting.” — Booklist, Starred Review

“A solid addition to the smokejumpers shelf, timelier than ever.”Kirkus Reviews

“This visual and textual feast highlights the skill of firefighters as well as honors their mission.” — School Library Journal