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Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey [Paperback]

Maira Kalman
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 9 2005 Picture Puffin Books

The John J. Harvey fireboat was the largest, fastest, shiniest fireboatof its time, but by 1995, the city didn't need old fireboats anymore. So the Harvey retired, until a group of friends decided to save it from the scrap heap. Then, one sunny September day in 2001, something so horrible happened that the whole world shook. And a call came from the fire department, asking if the Harvey could battle the roaring flames. In this inspiring true story, Maira Kalman brings a New York City icon to life and proves that old heroes never die.

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From Publishers Weekly

In relating the heroic role of the John J. Harvey on September 11, Kalman (Next Stop Grand Central) intelligently conveys those unfathomable events in a way that a picture book audience can comprehend. She begins with the year 1931, which saw some of New York City's finest hours: "Amazing things were happening big and small./ The Empire State Building went up up up." She continues with the completion of the George Washington Bridge, then zeroes in on the launching of the John J. Harvey, "the largest, fastest and shiniest fireboat of them all." Spot illustrations show its equipment and introduce the crew (including "a dog named Smokey, who did not put out the fires but had many nice spots"), while views of the New York harbor stretch across a spread. She then fast-forwards to 1995: "New York was changing. The Twin Towers were now the tallest buildings in New York City." But the piers are also closing, so the fireboat rests in retirement. One night, a group of friends decide over dinner to restore the John J. Harvey to its original glory. Next, the volume takes an abrupt turn. White type on a black page announces: "But then on September 11, 2001 something so huge and horrible happened that the whole world shook." A sequence of spreads shows the towers literally exploding in dark, angry brushstrokes of black and gray and orange, followed by the many heroes who "sprang into action," including the John J. Harvey. With this inspiring book, Kalman (Next Stop Grand Central) sensitively handles a difficult subject in an age-appropriate manner. Ages 5-up.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

reSchool-Grade 3-Kalman's hip, high-energy paintings portray American life in 1931: the Empire State Building is constructed, Babe Ruth hits his 611th home run, "Snickers" is invented, and the John J. Harvey is launched to fight fires on New York piers. In its heyday, the boat is the creme de la creme, but toward the end of the century as the piers start to close, it is forced into retirement, soon to become scrap. Amazingly, a group of friends decides to tackle a restoration, and the John J. Harvey is called upon to fight its worst blaze ever. The fireboat's role on September 11 calls for a shift in the book's mood and style. The transition is signaled with a quiet page of white text on gray-no art. The spread of the expressionistic explosion is followed by portraits of community helpers. The climax is depicted on a black background with the firefighters, appearing as blue, kinetic outlines, furiously battling the blazing orange, red, and yellow flames with long lines of white spray. Fireboat does many things. It sets forth an adventure, helps commemorate an anniversary, offers an interesting bit of history, celebrates the underdog, and honors the fire-fighting profession. Children and adults will respond to it in as many ways.
Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars History present! March 29 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A reminder that without the wisdom of the past, and preserving our links to it, we can lose something in our constant push toward the future. Heartwarming in the face of disaster. A lovely book!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Book - No Excuses! July 13 2004
I guess I'm somewhat taken aback by some of the reviewers who apparently read the book to their children, or got partway through it, without having looked it over themselves first. Sorry, that's just irresponsible. The book is a fabulous treatment of a terrible subject that your children ARE aware of, and this helps explain how ordinary people became heroes that awful day.
My 6-year old first fell in love with this book when he was 4, and he knows enough about 9/11 to know it was a horrible event. His dad (me) was next door to the WTC that morning, so he and his brother lived through waiting to hear from me with his mom.
The book is sensitive and touching. It's a great book and I highly recommend it. If you think your child might have a problem with ANY book, you should always read it yourself first.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Can't read this without sobbing June 15 2004
By Melani
A beautiful book about how the tradgedy of 9/11 brought out the best in New Yorkers. Of course we want to shelter our young children from awful events like this, but if they are elementary school age, they will hear about 9/11. Better to discuss it with them in a sensitive way. I have read this to my 6 year old about 5 times. I sob every time. Guess I'm teaching empathy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This book is highly recommended March 3 2004
By Jill
This book is highly recommended for all to read, especially for young children. 9/11 happened, and while it might be all well and good to shelter your children from the events of that day, there are 10,000 children without a mom or dad that cannot be. So, be a responsible adult and screen everything but, do not lose an opportunity to educate your children no matter what their age. And, teach them about giving back to others, not about the terrors involved. You'd be surprised.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful! Jan. 7 2004
This book handles the events of 9/11 in a wonderful way. The pictures are very tasteful. After seeing all the horrific images on the tv, the children will not be frighten by these pictures. This is a very well written book. Parents should always read a book before reading it to their child. Although I can't imagine why this book would be offensive.
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1.0 out of 5 stars MISLEADING Dec 3 2003
This book needs a warning on the cover of the book because of the graphic violence it depicts. It is misleading from the cover and title that it is only about this fireboat. It entails much more. Adults need to read this prior to reading it to children, then decide if they want to share it with their kids. If they do, they need to have some pre-discussion with the children about the topic of 9/11. Too many pages and too much graphic violence was shown for a book for the younger age group. It could have been handled in a much softer approach. As a parent and an educator I was shocked by this book. The pictures and wording were wonderful, other than that section. It needs to be revisited before another printing is made.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book Ever!! Nov. 19 2003
By A Customer
Fireboat is a really good book about recycling. The John J. Harvey was the best fireboat out of 12 other fireboats in New York City. The John J. Harvey fought fires up and down the river. It put out the fire that was huge on another boat, the Normandie. After awhile they did not need 12 fireboats, so the John J. Harvey was sitting in the river for five years, then a group of people saw it and wanted it so they bought it. They had perfessional people fix it up, then they did not use it to put out fires. It was thiers to keep for partys or go out on a ride. Then the fire department needed a fireboat.They needed a lot of fireboats at that time, so they had to use the John J. Harvey to help control this fire. Can you guess what fire it was? Remember it's in New York City. It was the fire that was spread because of the crash of the Twin Towers. Fireboat is a really good book. I can't tell you the whole story, it's so good you better read this book if you like boats or you are interested in what happened in New York City with the Twin Towers!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Something Old Is Something New. Nov. 4 2003
By tvtv3
FIREBOAT tells the story of the John J. Harvey. In it's hey-day, the John J. Harvey was one of the finest fireboats in New York City, patrolling the piers and helping to save lives. However, society changed and the piers were destroyed and New York didn't have much use for many fireboats. Eventually, the boat was retired and was going to be turned into scrap. However, some people were interested in saving the John J. Harvey and bought the old ship. They restored her to pristine condition and she became a proud site for people to look at. No one thought she would ever fight another fire. Then came September 11th, 2001. Fires were raging and many water lines were broken. A call came asking for the John J. Harvey to help and help she did. For four days the little fireboat fought fires along with two newer, larger fireboats. When all was said and done, everyone was thankful for the John J. Harvey. She was given an award and would no longer have to worry about ever being turned into scrap.
The illustrations that accompany the text are quite colorful and playful, adding to the story the book tells.
Even though the story is mainly about the life of the John J. Harvey, it is also about September 11th. This book is directed towards young children, some who maybe too young to even remember the events of that day. For those that still do, the book deals with the tragedy in a very sensitive way. In time, I can see the book being used widely to help introduce children to something that, though still so close to our hearts and lives, will one day be remembered as a tragic day in history. The book also has some subtle lessons, such as respect for the elderly and how even the most seemingly insignificant things in this world can be worthwhile.
Overall, FIREBOAT is a great children's book that deals with some very deep issues in a sensitive way.
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