Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey

Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey

Maira Kalman
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 4 to 7
Penguin, 2005   ISBN: 978-0142403624

It is 1931 and lots of wonderful and new things are happening in New York City. One of these things is that a new fireboat called the John J. Harvey is being launched. The fireboat is the "largest, fastest and shiniest fireboat of them all." Complete with a crew and a spotty Dalmatian called Smokey, the fireboat works up and down the river putting out fires on land and on the water.

Many years go by and things change. The John J. Harvey is getting old and it would seem that the old fireboat is not needed anymore. After five years sitting and waiting to be sold for scrap the John J. Harvey is rescued. A group of friends decide to buy and restore the fireboat and after months of work the boat is as beautiful and shiny as she was on the day she was launched.

Then on one fateful, dreadful day the people of New York City find out how valuable John J. Harvey really is. When two airplanes crash into the Twin Towers on September 11th, 2001, the crew of John J. Harvey leap into action carrying people across the river and away from danger. Then John J. Harvey and her crew are called upon to help fight fires as well. It would seem that old boats, like old people and old buildings, still have a lot to offer their community.

This touching and heart-warming picture book not only is a tale about heroism and service but it is a reminder that no one is too old to help in times of trouble and that it is important to save the treasures of the past, to enjoy them and to appreciate them. The book is a tribute not just to John J. Harvey, but it is also a tribute to those who lost their lives in the September 11th tragedy and to those who did their best to help others during that terrible time. Flat, naïve style artwork in bold colors will appeal to young children and perhaps inspire them to create paintings and picture stories of their own.