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FIREBOAT by Maira Kalman


The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey

by Maira Kalman & illustrated by Maira Kalman

Age Range: 5 - 9

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-399-23953-7
Publisher: Putnam

It is a truth universally acknowledged that many young children are obsessed with fire-fighting vehicles. Whether this true story of a New York City fireboat will satisfy them remains to be seen. Kalman begins with the familiar bright colors, playful language, and intriguing facts of her previous works (What Pete Ate From A to Z, 2001, etc.). Details of 1931 New York when the Harvey was launched, its crew, its gear, and its work fill these early pages. A jump to 1995, announced on a white page with a small illustration, brings the story of how the Harvey, slated for the scrap heap, is discovered and refurbished by a disparate group of New Yorkers. Then there is another colorless page, this one gray and denuded of illustration, announcing another date: September 11, 2001. What comes next is intense, disturbing, and beautiful. There is that blue sky, those white towers, and the two planes heading for them. Here are the buildings collapsing. There are the fires, day and night. And here is the Harvey and its crew helping along with so many others. A return to cheerful language scattered about a spectacular double spread of the New York City skyline at sunset brings the work to an optimistic conclusion. This well-intentioned, but muddled mix of New York City history, fireboat operation, and 9/11 memorial will need adults on hand to answer the many questions bound to arise. (Picture book. 5-9)