Kid's Stuff -- Books About Fire Fighters And Fire Engines
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Pull over, everybody -- nothing holds quite the fascination for little kids as fire engines and fire fighters... Here's a quick sampling of some of the finest fire-fighting books available. Did we miss some of your favorites? Write us and let us know!




"The Fire Cat"
Written by Esther Averill
Illustrated by Esther Averill
(Harper Collins, 1960)

The "origin story" of Pickles, the fire cat. Written over a decade after Pickles originally appeared in the oddball 1940s "Jenny Linsky" series, this shows how Pickles was originally a feral cat, living in a vacant lot, who chased smaller cats because he had nothing better to do... Pickles is befriended by Mrs. Goodkind, who tries to tame him, but is unsuccessful, with Pickles running out of her apartment, back into the wild. Later, though, a fireman comes to rescue Pickles from the top of a tree, and the firehouse adopts him as a mascot. Pickles, who had always dreamt of "doing big things," works hard to help out, and is made an official "fire cat," even learning to climb a ladder and help other cats when they get stuck in trees. This is one of the clearest-written, least odd of the Jenny Linksy books, also intriguing for its clear advocacy of a liberal view of poverty, crime and criminal rehabilitation: given a good home and honest work to do, Pickles becomes a model citizen... (Though, apparently, there was some recidivism at play, too, since he was a bully again by the time Jenny meets him in School For Cats...) Anyway, this is an enjoyable book, with a lower word count and better artwork than the earlier Averill offerings.
(B-)


"Firefighters A to Z"
Written by Chris L. Demarest
Illustrated by Chris L. Demarest
(Margaret K. McElderry, 2000)

(-)


"Here Come Our Firefighters"
Written by Chris L. Demarest
Illustrated by Chris L. Demarest
(Little Simon, 2002)

A pop-up book... (-)


"Dot The Fire Dog"
Written by Lisa Desimini
Illustrated by Lisa Desimini
(Blue Sky Press, 2001)

The life of firefighters, seen through the eyes of a stationhouse Dalmation... The firefighters are first seen sitting around, waiting, until the alarm bell rings -- then they don their gear, and off they go to save the day! Dot rides alongside, wearing her very own fire helmet, and even saves a kitten from the fire. Although the text doesn't mention it, the fire crew is an admirably diverse group, balanced by gender and ethnicity, and as they race off to save the day, women do as much hard work as men... Desmini's angular artwork is colorful and bright, and has an "outsider" folk-art feel (though not so much as to detract from the story...) A nice addition to any fire truck-lovin' little one's library. (B+)


"The Great Big Fire Engine Book"
Written by Tibor Gergely (?)
Illustrated by Tibor Gergely
(Random House/Golden Books, 1950)

A bright, boldly colorful classic aimed at all kids for whom the sight (and sound) of fire enfgines is pure catnip. The artwork is round, expressive and highly stylized, the text is declarative and simple; each keeps the action going. The one thing that's odd about this book is that the pictures are framed in a strange way -- although we understand what is going on, we rarely see the whole picture (i.e., a clear, full view of a building on fire with the fire trucks parked in front. Instead, the action is framed much closer, in an almost cinematic, handheld camera kind of way. Regardless, it's a fun book, ideal for the hook-and-ladder set. (B)


"Fire! Fire!"
Written by Gail Gibbons
Illustrated by Gail Gibbons
(Harper, 1987)

(-)


"Firefighters To The Rescue"
Written by Kersten Hamilton
Illustrated by Rich Davis
(Viking, 2005)

Colorful, vivid artwork bolsters this otherwise somewhat weak narrative about a fire crew racing off to put out a fire (and save a little boy's puppy, too!) while the whole town watches and cheers. This is one of those odd children's books where the author seems to have made an attempt to rhyme, but didn't stick with it, so the tone of the writing is wildly uneven and difficult to get into. (An early page reads: On go boots and coat and hat. Ready? Right!/All aboard and hold on tight! ...Which is fine, except that the rest of the text doesn't continue on in this rhyming scheme, choosing instead to sort-of rhyme at times, and then, when the rhyme gets lost, to rely on the catch phrase, "firefighters to the rescue!" to anchor the story...) I honestly don't understand why so many writers do this -- don't they know how hard it is to read their books read aloud, when they tug readers in so many directions? Anyway, the artwork is fun, with the action set in a 1940s/'50s American small town, with old Edsels and Packers getting out of the way of the fire engines, and a Roy Rogers movie on the marquee at the local theater. I wanted to like this book more that I did, but it just turned out to be too clumsy to read well. (C+)


"A Day With The Firefighters"
Written by Jan Kottke
Illustrated by Jan Kottke
(Children's Press, 2000)

(-)


"I Want To Be A Firefighter"
Written by Dan Liebman
Illustrated by Dan Liebman
(Firefly, 1999)

(-)


"Even Firefighters Hug Their Moms"
Written by Christine Kole MacLean
Illustrated by Mike Reed
(Puffin Books, 2004)

(-)


"Big Frank's Fire Truck"
Written by Leslie McGuire
Illustrated by Joe Mathieu
(Random House, 1996)

(-)


"Flashing Fire Engines"
Written by Tony Mitton
Illustrated by Ant Parker
(Kingfisher, 2000)

(-)


"A Fire Engine For Ruthie"
Written by Leslea Newman
Illustrated by Cyd Moore
(Clarion, 2004)

When Ruthie goes for a long visit to her grandmother's house, Nana has a bunch of great activities planned out, but the trouble is they're all too girly for Ruthie, who is a bit of a tomboy. Nana wants to play dress-up and give Ruthie her old dolls, and do arts-and-crafts projects, but Ruthie keeps trying to hook up with the kid next door, a boy who has toy trucks and trains and motorcycles to play with. It takes several days for Nana to catch on, and though her feelings are a little hurt at first, she finally takes Ruthie over for a playdate, where all three of them have a great time playing with all those great toys that have wheels. This book certainly wears its message on its sleeve, but still a nice story. The ending, where Nana gets into their playtime, is cool, and the day-by-day, step-by-step structure helps build the narrative. Nice artwork, too. Whether you're reading to a boy, a tomboy or a girly-girl, this is a cool story about how adults can learn to listen and find out what their kids are really interested in... Also nice for all the alterna- and nontraditional types out there. Recommended! (A)


"The Police Cloud"
Written by Christoph Niemann
Illustrated by Christoph Niemann
(Schwartz And Wade, 2007)

A delightful book about an eager young cloud who wants to be a police officer, but discovers he might not really be well suited for the job. (Directing traffic, for example, is kind of hard when you look like a giant fog bank in the middle of the intersection...) Both surrealistic and old-fashioned, this features bright, cartoonish artwork that evokes old Golden Books and the like from the 1950s... The pacing and lighthearted humor are quite entertaining, and the surprise ending is a gas. I hadn't known what to expect from this one, but it would up being a big favorite for my daughter, and definitely made it into our A-list. Highly recommended. (A)


"No Dragons For Tea: Fire Safety For Kids (And Dragons)"
Written by Jean Pendziwol
Illustrated by Martine Gourbault
(Kids Can Press, 1998)

(-)


"At The Firehouse"
Written by Anne Rockwell
Illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell
(Harper Collins, 2003)

Jason and his friend Camilla visit the local fire station on an open house day... They get a full tour of the living quarters and the trucks -- and even get to sit in the cabs and hold the steering wheels! An exciting book for firetruck-obsessed young'uns, with artwork that helps stir conversations about the work firefighters do, and the tools they use. The artwork is a little problematic -- the characters are all speckle-faced dalmatians, drawn in a somewhat blotchy and folk-artish way, and sometimes it's difficult to clearly focus on what's happening in the pictures... But the text is good, and there's no question about what is happening on each page. Recommended! (B)


"All Aboard Fire Trucks"
Written by Teddy Slater
Illustrated by Tom LaPadula
(Grosset & Dunlap, 1991)

(-)


"If I Could Drive A Fire Truck"
Written by Michael Teitelbaum
Illustrated by Uldis Klavins
(Scholastic/Cartwheel, 2001)

(-)


"Firefighter Frank"
Written by Monica Wellington
Illustrated by Monica Wellington
(Dutton, 2002)

(-)


"Fireman Small"
Written by Wing Herbert Yee
Illustrated by Wing Herbert Yee
(Houghton Mifflin, 1996)

(-)


"Fireman Small To The Rescue"
Written by Wing Herbert Yee
Illustrated by Wing Herbert Yee
(Houghton Mifflin, 1998)

(-)


"Fireman Small - Fire Down Below!"
Written by Wing Herbert Yee
Illustrated by Wing Herbert Yee
(Houghton Mifflin, 2004)

(-)


"A Small Christmas"
Written by Wing Herbert Yee
Illustrated by Wing Herbert Yee
(Houghton Mifflin, 2004)

(-)


"Fire Engine Man"
Written by Andrea Zimmerman
Illustrated by David Clemesha
(Henry Holt & Co., 2007)

(-)




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