A once-beloved fire engine regains a town’s affection in this picture book for lap readers.
When the town of Someport-by-the-Sea buys a new fire engine—bright, red Reddy with his big, red water tank—residents young and old (all depicted as Caucasian) are delighted. Helpful Reddy makes the town proud; he receives accolades wherever he goes. But after leading his first Independence Day parade, Reddy loses his luster, and admiration shifts to new acquisitions, including a snowplow and a road grader. The truck is renamed Rusty and eventually relegated to the end of the parade. How Rusty reclaims the townspeople’s hearts involves a hot summer day, an old friend, and a surprise repurposing of Rusty’s water tank. Adults may find the narrative a bit precious at times (the ladders go “Up Up Uppity-up”; the firehouse dog goes “Bark Bark Barkity-bark”), but Fisher’s (The Next Breath, 2014, etc.) prose invites empathy, as does illustrator Boswell’s understated suggestion of a face in Rusty’s grille and headlights. The author’s observations on the fickleness of fame come through with appropriate humor and heart, and the small illustrations are pleasantly rendered against ample negative space.
A children’s tale that veers toward the sugary side, but the ups and downs of an anthropomorphic fire engine are sympathetically portrayed.