Review of Firefighters' Handbook

Firefighters’ Handbook
by Meghan McCarthy; illus. by the author
Primary    Wiseman/Simon    48 pp.
9/19    978-1-5344-1733-5    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5344-1734-2    $10.99

McCarthy (Astronaut Handbook, rev. 7/08; All That Trash, rev. 5/18) brings her recognizable illustration style (bug-eyed humans with sideways grins) to the kid-captivating topic of firefighting. Friendly, direct-address text covers firefighter training (our first in-the-know terminology comes on the second spread, with preparations for the CPAT—that’s Candidate Physical Ability Test); detailed information about the many types of equipment and their uses; daily tasks; helpful skills to have or cultivate (physical strength; no fear of heights; good memory, there’s a quiz). The writing is clear and specific, and the expansive, colorful acrylic illustrations, including labeled diagrams, are themselves quite informative, showing, for example, the difference between a fire truck and a fire engine and including everything down to WD-40 and baby wipes. Firefighters’ camaraderie comes through clearly (“Your firefighter team will become your second family”), and while the disaster-scenario scenes aren’t frantic, neither are they unrealistically downplayed. Children-as-firefighters occasionally appear in the pictures (in small print: “WARNING: This child is too little and young to be on a fire scene! Do not imitate, please”), drawing readers in and allowing them to visualize this aspirational career. Back matter includes an interview with a retired fire department battalion chief, including questions both from McCarthy and from children (Sadie: “Have you ever saved a baby from a fire?”).

From the November/December 2019 Horn Book Magazine.

Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons University and a BA from Oberlin College.

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