In a starred review, PW wrote, "In relating the heroic role of the John J. Harvey on September 11, 2001, Kalman intelligently conveys those unfathomable events in a way that a picture book audience can comprehend." Ages 3-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
PreS-Gr 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.
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)
* “Kalman does some extraordinary things in this beautiful picture book. She takes the fireboat’s history and puts it within the context of a city that has endured, framing the enormity of 9/11 so young readers, and even small children, can begin to grasp what happened. At the same time, she makes the event part of life’s continuum of loss and endurance. Her artistry is as compassionate as it is brilliant. Wonderful, sweeping images of New York icons bring the city to life; detailed images of the Harvey do the same for the boat. . . . It is vivid, but the stark, sensitive rendering is also somehow easier to absorb than the horrible photographs burned into our hearts. By focusing on the boat and the people who worked on it, loved it, and placed it at the service of their city, Kalman casts a blessing far and wide. . . . A hundred years from now, when people want to know what we told our children about 9/11, Kalman's book should be among the first answers.”—Booklist, starred review
• “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.”—School Library Journal, starred review
• “Kalman intelligently conveys those unfathomable events in a way that a picture book audience can comprehend. . . . With this inspiring book, Kalman sensitively handles a difficult subject in an age-appropriate manner.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
• “Among the many literary tributes to 9-11 heroism, Kalman’s is particularly exciting, uplifting, and child-sensitive. . . . Revisits the tragedy without the terror and conveys pride without preachiness."—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, starred review
• “Quintessential New York artist Kalman gives us an idiosyncratic but informative look at a Big Apple institution. . . . Kalman’s use of the events of September 11 is honest and honorable, and rarely is she as straightforward as she is here.”—The Horn Book, starred review