New York's Bravest

New York's Bravest

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by Mary Pope Osborne, Steve Johnson, Lou Fancher
     
 

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In the 1840s, there was a real vounteer firefighter named Mose Humphreys whose bravery was reknown throughout New York City. Plays about him began being performed on Broadway in 1848 and over the years his strength and heroics took on larger-than-life proportions, much like those of Paul Bunyan. Mary Pope Osborne has honed down the legends about him to a brief,

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Overview

In the 1840s, there was a real vounteer firefighter named Mose Humphreys whose bravery was reknown throughout New York City. Plays about him began being performed on Broadway in 1848 and over the years his strength and heroics took on larger-than-life proportions, much like those of Paul Bunyan. Mary Pope Osborne has honed down the legends about him to a brief, dramatic, sometimes comical, but ultimately moving text of picture book length. Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher’s stunning paintings capture this 8-foot-tall superhero rushing into burning buildings, saving babies and bankers, and wolfing down the feasts bestowed upon him by the grateful citizens of old New York–until the one big hotel fire after which he was never seen again. The author has included a historical note about the origins of this tall tale, and the book is dedicated to the 343 New York City firefighters who gave their lives to save others on September 11, 2001.

Mary Pope Osborne included a longer, different version of this legend in her distinguished collection American Tall Tales.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Past and present combine to stirring effect in this tall tale with real-world reverberations. Dedicated "To the memory of the 343 New York City firefighters who gave their lives to save others on September 11, 2001," Osborne's (the Magic Tree House series) story, set against 19th-century New York City, draws on the legend of real-life firefighter Mose Humphrey. In a subtle parallel to last fall's catastrophe, the author notes that eight-feet-tall Mose, with "hands as big as Virginia hams," runs toward danger as others run away. Johnson and Fancher (Copp lia) portray the man's powerful figure from street level, to emphasize his height and heft as he rushes to a burning building or lifts a horse-drawn trolley that bars the hero's way. After Mose courageously makes repeated trips into a burning hotel to rescue all of the guests, his co-workers realize that Mose is nowhere to be found. This vague sense of loss and lack of resolution will hit home for many youngsters; the artists evoke a solemn mood with ash-covered cobblestone streets and the long faces of fellow firefighters. But the words of an old-timer help them carry on their noble mission in the hero's memory: "Whenever we climb our ladders toward a blazing sky, he climbs with us." Author and artist carefully and respectfully balance the tall-tale ingredients with actual events to craft a loving tribute one that may well help youngsters cope with the loss of these brave leaders. Ages 5-8. (Aug.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Osborne states in her "Historical Note" that Mose Humphreys was "America's first urban folk hero." He was a firefighter in New York City in the mid-nineteenth century. According to legend, "Eight feet tall, Mose had hands as big as Virginia hams." He single-handedly lifted trolleys out of the way and saved babies from burning buildings. One night, he ran in and out of a burning hotel and brought everyone to safety. Yet when the fire was finally out, Mose was missing. As with all folk heroes, rumors circulated that Mose was seen out West. But one old timer finally said, "Mose is right here...Whenever we save folks, he saves them, too. You see, that firefighter—he'll never leave us. He's the very spirit of New York City." The illustrators depict this larger-than-life figure with a strong square jaw. They capture the buildings and lifestyle of the period, with dramatic scenes and small details. How nice it is to have a beautiful book on one of the lesser-known American tall tale heroes. Dedicated "To the memory of the 343 New York City firefighters who gave their lives to save others on September 11, 2001," this is both timely and timeless. 2002, Alfred A Knopf,
— Sharon Salluzzo
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3-In an author's note, Osborne describes Mose Humphreys as America's first "urban folk hero." She draws on published accounts and legends of this real-life, 19th-century firefighter, adding her own touches. Using a few well-chosen sentences placed in a border at the bottom of each page, the author creates her larger-than-life character: the eight-foot wonder, with hands "as big as Virginia hams.- When others ran away from danger, Mose ran toward it." The remaining portion of each spread functions as a stage for a man whose stovepipe hat can't be contained in the frame and whose red shirt commands attention. Dramatic scenes, like the one of Mose carrying a baby in his hat while jumping from a burning ladder, are filled with a frenzy of brilliant flames against black, sooty skies. These pictures are contrasted with quieter moments of people gathering around their hero with gifts of gratitude. After an all-night blaze, during which everyone is rescued, the firefighter disappears. As the stories regarding his whereabouts grow more outrageous, his comrades come to realize he is still among them: "the very spirit of New York City." With its obvious connection (and dedication) to the firefighters of 9/11, this book will be welcomed by adults seeking an entr e to the topic for younger children. It also stands alone as a fine addition to the pantheon of picture-book legends.-Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In response to September 11th, Osborne returned to her story of the legendary 19th-century New York City volunteer firefighter Mose Humphreys (American Tall Tales, 1991) and refashioned it into a stirring picture-book tribute to the 343 firefighters who died on that terrible day. Mose is larger than life and has no fear: "When others ran away from danger, Mose ran toward it." Is a trolley blocking their path? Mose lifts it out of the way. Is a baby in danger in a burning tenement? Mose rescues him. All over town, in factories and tenements and mansions, Mose fights fires until the night a hotel burns to the ground and in the morning, he's missing, never to be seen again. Then the rumors begin about supposed sightings. Wishful thinking, but in fact, he's still with the department as they march in parades and climb ladders because he's "the very spirit of New York City." The large, textured oil paintings are full of vitality and depict an old New York with cobblestones, ragmen, sailing ships, and horse-drawn wagons. The red of Mose's flannel shirt fills the oversized pages providing a comforting focal point. Not merely a title about one day of terror, Osborne's brief but well-fashioned text stirs the spirit to celebrate a quiet and caring bravery. (historical note) (Picture book. 5-8)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375838415
Publisher:
Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
08/22/2006
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
32
Sales rank:
480,910
Product dimensions:
9.06(w) x 11.97(h) x 0.17(d)
Lexile:
AD350L (what's this?)
Age Range:
3 - 7 Years

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