The Firehouse Light

The Firehouse Light

by Janet Nolan, Marie Lafrance
     
 

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Day after day, year after year,
the lightbulb did not burn out. 

 
Here is the true story of a little lightbulb, located in a firehouse, that has stayed lit for more than one hundred years. As horse-drawn carriages make room for automobiles, dirt roads give way to paved streets, and new buildings transform small clusters of homes into

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Overview

Day after day, year after year,
the lightbulb did not burn out. 

 
Here is the true story of a little lightbulb, located in a firehouse, that has stayed lit for more than one hundred years. As horse-drawn carriages make room for automobiles, dirt roads give way to paved streets, and new buildings transform small clusters of homes into bustling neighborhoods, a small town grows and changes. And fighting fires changes, too: fires once fought by bucket brigades and hand-pulled hose carts are now attended by full-time firefighters and modern firetrucks. Yet now, just like then, the lightbulb glows, strong and steady, above the brave firefighters and their trucks.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Nolan (A Father's Day Thank You) tells the story of a four-watt lightbulb that was installed in a California fire station in 1901 and has been burning ever since. She begins "a long time ago," when volunteers fought fires with buckets, axes, and hand-pulled carts with water hoses. Working in smooth tandem, the conversational narrative and Lafrance's (A Wizard in Love) finely detailed, folk art–style acrylics follow the continuum of time, subtly chronicling social, technological, and automotive changes throughout the decades while remaining focused on the constancy of the bulb (the refrain "Day after day, year after year, the lightbulb did not burn out," opens most scenes). Particularly illuminating is the evolution of firefighting equipment, vehicles, and alert systems. In a thoughtful juxtaposition, contemporary firefighters and other emergency responders, red lights flashing, race through the streets of what is now a city, "past halogen, fluorescent and incandescent lights, past neon and strobe lights," while the bulb, glowing "no brighter than a handful of fireflies," hangs by its cord back at the station. A poetic bridge between past and present. Ages 5–9. (May)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, School Library Journal, August 17, 2010:
“Nolan’s unassuming storytelling is perfect for reading aloud. ...This is a fascinating story that will appeal to those looking for a unique perspective on American cultural history.”

Review, Booklist, June 1, 2010:
"A four-watt bulb installed in the firehouse during horse-and-buggy days glows through decades of change: from horses to automobiles; from axes and buckets to hoses and oxygen masks; from radios to television and computers: and from small town to contemporary city.... A good choice for children who seek offbeat nonfiction, this is also a fresh approach for units on community helpers."

Review, Kirkus Reviews:
"The little-town-over time theme—and the fire trucks—exert plenty of child-friendly appeal."

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
The true story of the miraculous firehouse light begins in the days of horse-drawn buggies. When there is a fire in a small town one night, the volunteers must light a lantern to get the firefighting equipment from its shed. One day they receive a gift: a wire burning in a glass ball—a four-watt lightbulb. They take the bulb with them ten years later to a new firehouse, where it keeps burning. Autos replace buggies, and after twenty years, despite brighter bulbs, the firefighters keep the bulb burning. Thirty years later, as children watch moving pictures, the bulb burns on. In forty years, as the bulb burns, trains and planes arrive in town. After fifty years, the town has grown. Firefighters are paid rather than volunteers. Sixty years pass, then seventy, eighty, ninety, and one hundred. A birthday party celebrates the still-burning bulb. Lafrance creates a dollhouse-like town; acrylic paints produce smooth surfaces, smoothly articulated people, and sharply defined details. The double-page scenes clearly display the changing technology while keeping the focus on the amazing light that will not quit. A note fills in the details on the actual bulb given in 1901 to the firefighters of Livermore, California, complete with photo. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—The history of firefighting is told through the story of a four-watt electric lightbulb that was installed in a wooden shack in Livermore, CA, more than 100 years ago. The bulb remained continuously lit as the shack became a fire station and the equipment progressed from horse-drawn carriages and water buckets to the fire engines and hoses of today. Nolan's unassuming storytelling is perfect for reading aloud. The line "Day after day, year after year, the lightbulb did not burn out" introduces each decade and the inventions it brought. Lafrances's acrylic paintings have a traditional, folk-art feeling as rural and small-town scenes evolve into modern cityscapes. An afterword and a photo of the lightbulb still burning today are included. This is a fascinating story that will appeal to those looking for a unique perspective on American cultural history.—Kristine M. Casper, Huntington Public Library, NY
Kirkus Reviews
At 109 years old and still burning (and in the Guinness Book of World Records), a real light bulb hanging in a California firehouse not only merits admiration for its durability but also provides a natural anchor for a look at how a small settlement grows over a century into a city. Nolan takes it decade by decade as, in Lafrance's folk art-style acrylics, ever-larger buildings go up around one fire house after another, a hand-pulled hose cart gives way to a succession of fire trucks and the professional firefighters who succeed volunteer companies put out fires, perform rescues and march in parades. Beneath the bulb they welcome generations of marveling visitors in changing period dress. Unlike Juliette Goodrich's Little Light Shines Bright, illustrated by Roseanne Lester (2008), there's but one actual photo, but the little-town-over-time theme-and the fire trucks-exert plenty of child-friendly appeal. The bulb has its own website and webcam. (afterword) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781582462981
Publisher:
Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
05/25/2010
Pages:
32
Sales rank:
1,243,249
Product dimensions:
10.84(w) x 8.82(h) x 0.35(d)
Lexile:
AD990L (what's this?)
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Starred Review, School Library Journal, August 17, 2010:
“Nolan’s unassuming storytelling is perfect for reading aloud. ...This is a fascinating story that will appeal to those looking for a unique perspective on American cultural history.”

Review, Booklist, June 1, 2010:
"A four-watt bulb installed in the firehouse during horse-and-buggy days glows through decades of change: from horses to automobiles; from axes and buckets to hoses and oxygen masks; from radios to television and computers: and from small town to contemporary city.... A good choice for children who seek offbeat nonfiction, this is also a fresh approach for units on community helpers."

Review, Kirkus Reviews:
"The little-town-over time theme—and the fire trucks—exert plenty of child-friendly appeal."

Meet the Author

JANET NOLAN has written two previous picture books and lives in Oak Park, Illinois. About The Firehouse Light, Janet says, “The lightbulb has been the subject of numerous newspaper and magazine articles, television and radio shows. It has caught the attention of Ripley’s Believe It or Not and the Guinness Book of World Records.” Janet currently serves as Program Co-Chair for the Illinois chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). 
 
MARIE LAFRANCE has illustrated more than twenty children’s books and is originally from Quebec City. She studied graphic arts at CEGEP in Vieux-Montréal and etching at Studio Graff. Marie has lived in San Francisco and New York, where she worked as a silk-screen printmaker for various galleries. She returned to Montreal to work as a freelance illustrator and has been nominated for many awards, including the prestigious Governor General’s Award. Marie lives with her partner and their daughter, Béatrice.

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