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Children's LiteratureMagnus the fire horse at the Broadway Firehouse in Hope Springs represents a part of American history. He and his two strong partners are quickly in place when the fire bell sounds, ready to pull the steam pumper and to stand steady no matter how hot the fire or chaotic the situation. Magnus is proud of being considered a hero. One day, however, a motorized fire engine arrives, and the horses are sold away. Still, whenever the fire bell clangs, Magnus feels that he must go. He jumps the fence no matter how high, but at the scene of the fire he is in the way. But when the new engine blows its engine and is too heavy to be moved, the firemen rig up a harness and Magnus manages to pull the engine to the fire in time. A hero again, Magnus finally accepts retirement in the country. The story is exciting; the characters, including Magnus, have real personalities. Smith's double-page scenes emphasize the melodrama of fire-fighting. He uses oil paints to create naturalistic settings with a historic feeling, in which the muscled horses play the starring roles. The engines are lovingly depicted with gleaming brass boilers and bright red tanks, but there is no doubt that the horses are the focus, particularly Magnus. The author adds information on the changing history of firefighting from volunteers passing buckets of water through horse-drawn pumpers to self-propelled fire engines. Note the stirring end-paper illustrations of horses in action in the beginning, and of Magnus peacefully at pasture at the end. 2005, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, Ages 5 to 8.
—Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz