How do I know about Firefighter Children’s Books?
As a kindergarten teacher, I have always been a big fan of children’s books and reading aloud. One of my favorite topics was books about firefighters. After all, firefighters are super cool! Firefighter books have excitement, action, danger, vehicles, and heroism, so any “fire safety” or “community helper” theme was guaranteed to be a big hit!
Then, six years ago, I joined my local volunteer fire department. I started training right away and within two years I was certified to the Fire 2 level. But the more I learned, the more annoyed I was with the inaccuracies in so many of the firefighter books in my classroom. I would wonder how authors managed to publish books with information that was so clearly wrong, and in some cases, even dangerous! (Okay, so here’s my PSA for would-be authors of firefighter children’s books- please go, even just once, down to your local fire station and let them read a draft. And if they tell you something is totally inaccurate, for goodness’ sake, FIX IT!)
As a parent or teacher, I know the last thing you want to do is read something to your children that contains misinformation, but
if you’re not a firefighter yourself, how would you know what’s wrong and what isn’t?
Since I have an overlap in my expertise, I’d like to help you make sure that the books you’re reading to your children contain true information and are of good literary quality!
This list contains many of the top books in this category, rated for accuracy (in my opinion as a firefighter) and entertainment value (in my opinion as an experienced teacher). I hope it helps you find books that the kids in your life will enjoy and actually learn from!
Okay, before we start, one thing you need to know:
in the fire service, fire trucks and fire engines are not the same thing.
You know the vehicles with the giant ladders mounted on top that stretch up ten floors and rescue people? Those are “trucks”
(they’re also referred to as “ladder trucks”, or “fire trucks”. “Hook and Ladder” is an acceptable but generally outdated term as well.) The firefighters that ride on them, the “truckies” are in charge of searching buildings and rescuing people, ventilating (cutting holes in the roof to let smoke out), and forcible entry (i.e. breaking down doors when necessary).
“Engines” (also called “pumpers” in some areas) might have a small ladder or two hanging from the side. but their primary purpose is to carry hoses and water.
The firefighters that ride on engines are in charge of bringing the hose to the fire and putting it out.
There are other, more specialized vehicles as well;
“rescues” that carry tons of equipment for rope rescue, water rescue, or tools for different types of motor vehicle accidents. There are tankers, which carry lots of water in areas where there are no fire hydrants. And there are brush trucks, which are usually smaller and lighter and made to fight fires in the woods.
In my experience, though, most children’s books only talk about “fire trucks” or “fire engines”…
and half the time, they get it wrong! But now you know better and I bet you can’t WAIT to impress the socks off the next little kid you meet.
The books below are organized from best to worst,
so if you just want a few suggestions for good new books, start at the top and work your way down. If you want to know what to avoid, start at the bottom, or if you have a specific book you’re wondering about, scroll to find it.
All of the book titles are Amazon affiliate links, meaning that if you choose to click on one and purchase a book, I will get a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.
Firefighters A-Z by Chris L. Demarest-
If you want the absolute best book about firefighters, this is it! I’ve seriously bought a copy of Firefighters A-Z for almost every kid I know. It’s entertaining because it rhymes, it’s an alphabet book, and it actually manages to tell a coherent story about these firefighters responding to a fire (“A is for alarm that rings loud and clear, B is for boots stowed in our bunker gear…”) It was written by an actual firefighter, so you can trust that it’s 100% correct and it uses fun fire service vocabulary that you just don’t see in other children’s books, like “ventilate” and “sounding” (don’t worry! There’s a glossary at the back!). The last time I took my class on a field trip to the firehouse, my kids totally blew the firefighters away, asking to see things they’d learned about in this book! The illustrations are painted but they’re amazingly detailed and meticulously correct- down to the seams on the bunker gear and the valves on the air packs. I cannot gush enough about how much I love “Firefighters A-Z”. If you know some kids that love firefighters, don’t pass up this chance to give them a real glimpse into fire service life! Accuracy: 10/10, Entertainment 10/10
Fire Engine No. 9 by Mike Austin
The text of this book is only sound effects, with no accompanying story. It would be best for toddlers and preschoolers, or possibly kindergarten emergent readers. Older children would probably want a little more description. The accuracy of the pictures is pretty spot on- the details on the engine are realistic, the firefighters are carrying the hose with correct form, and the actions they take at the scene of the fire seem pretty appropriate. I like how diverse the group of firefighters is, including the fact that two are women. As long as your audience is okay with such little text, this one is pretty good. Accuracy 10/10, Entertainment 8/10
The Firefighters by Sue Whiting
You should know that “the Firefighters” in this book are not actual firefighters, but a group of kids pretending… until their teacher arranges for the real firefighters to come visit the school! The kids are adorable and their teacher is awesome. I like how the real firefighters, when they visit, do a little fire safety talk and emphasize to the kids that if their house is on fire, they should get low and “go, go go!” So many children’s books talk about “stop, drop and roll” (which is what you should do if your clothes are on fire) that children get confused and think it’s how they should react if they’re in a burning building. I like anything that reinforces the “get out and stay out” message. This book would definitely be a fun addition to your fire safety week lineup. Accuracy 9/10, Entertainment 9/10
A Day in the Life of a Firefighter by Linda Hayward
This simple little reader is unexpectedly spot on! Not only is it accurate (I especially love that they use the term “attack line” for the first hose into the fire” it’s realistic! The guys at the firehouse work together to check the trucks in the morning, do a fire inspection (it even lists what they’re looking for, like fire extinguishers and working smoke detectors) and make some fish for dinner, which of course they don’t get to eat right away! Although it’s marketed as such, I wouldn’t really consider this an easy reader, since it includes words like “inspected” “restaurant”‘and “caught.” You could read it together with kids, though, and actually learn a lot! Accuracy 10/10, Entertainment 7/10
A Visit to the Sesame Street Firehouse by Dan Elliott
This book was published in 1983, so it’s definitely dated. Some of the terminology has fallen out of use (e.g. “hook and ladder truck” instead of “ladder truck”) and some of the tools, especially the turnout gear, have changed since it was published. However, overall it’s clearly well researched, and gives a pretty good explanation of a lot of basic concepts in kid friendly language. When the Sesame Street characters go to the firehouse, the chief talks to them about what happens at the fire station (training, eating, sleeping) and about the different equipment. I like the explanation of when tankers are used and how a tiller ladder works. The firefighters are depicted as hardworking, nice people, and they’re not overly glorified. I also really like how, during the inevitable fire, it makes a point of saying that the kids stay a safe distance away from the action. The only issue from a read aloud standpoint is that, based on the phrasing, the target audience is preschoolers, but it’s could potentially be a little too long and dry to hold their attention for the whole book. Accuracy 9/10, Entertainment 8/10
This book is very sweet! The text is kid friendly and clear, and the drawings are adorable. Other than the fact that their masks don’t seem to be connected to their air packs in any way, the drawings are very accurate- the nozzle looks like a nozzle, the firefighters holding the hose have good form, and their station uniforms include a badge and a patch on the sleeve. They said “truck” and that’s what it is. Also, everyone in this book is so polite! I want to live in this friendly little world. Accuracy 9/10, Entertainment 8/10
Machines at Work: Fire Truck by Caroline Bingham
This one is nonfiction, and definitely aimed at older kids than the other books I’ve reviewed here. It has pages about airplanes in wildland fires, fire boats, airport firefighting, and fire training schools. Other than one tiny mistake (they labeled an air pack an “oxygen tank”) it seems to be pretty accurate. It would be a good reference for second and third graders, or younger kids if they’re REALLY interested. Although it has a lot of text, it’s written clearly in kid-friendly language. Accuracy 9/10, Entertainment 8/10
Fighting Fires by Susan Kuklin
It’s so refreshing to read books that are clearly well-researched! This book has a lot of really great firefighting vocabulary- including some slang, like “rig” for the fire trucks. She explains the difference between the truck and the engine, and even goes over the roles that different people on the truck might have. The pictures are photos that are well chosen to be interesting and illustrate what she’s describing. It’s written more like nonfiction, but the text tells the story of a fire, written in a logical order to describe how things go from start to finish. It was written in 1993, so there are a few things that have changed (for example, it says that some firefighters choose not to wear the hoods that protect their ears, which are now mandatory). As a whole, though, this book contains a ton of good information and it’s presented well. Accuracy 10/10, Entertainment 7/10
Fire! Fire! by Gail Gibbons
Gail Gibbons’ writing style is a little dry, and the illustrations aren’t the prettiest drawings I’ve ever seen. However, this is a very well-researched and accurate little book. She discusses some aspects of firefighting that I haven’t seen in any other children’s books, like standpipes and mutual aid. I really like how she breaks down the difference between career departments in the city and volunteer departments in the country. This one contains lots of good information in a clear- if not super-exciting- format. Accuracy 10/10, Entertainment 7/10
Big Frank’s Fire Truck by Leslie McGuire
This book portrays one 24-hour shift in the life of a firefighter. Other than two small mistakes (firefighter’s air packs do not contain pure oxygen, just compressed air, so they are not referred to as an “oxygen pack”, and the book is called “Big Frank’s Fire Truck” but he’s portrayed driving an engine in most scenes) it’s very accurate. I like how realistic the events in his day are. Big Frank responds to a few calls, does a fire inspection, teaches fire safety at an elementary school, then goes to the big fire- but in this book, it’s a brush fire, which is a refreshing change. There are some other nice little details that you wouldn’t see in most books; Big Frank checks his gear in the morning, uses his paramedic training to help a victim at a car accident (whom he has, appropriately, immobilized with a cervical collar), calls other departments for help with the big fire, and best of all, returns to his kids the next morning. Big Frank is a nice, hardworking guy with a family, and I like him. The illustrations are a little cartoony but have some nice details, and the story is engaging with kid-friendly language for all of the big concepts. This one’s definitely worth having. Accuracy 8/10, Entertainment 9/10
The Fire Engine Book (Little Golden Book)
This book was written in 1950, so it is definitely very dated, but as far as I can tell, accurate for it’s time. The chief is in charge, the firemen on the “hose car” put out the fire, the “hook and ladder” guys raise their ladders. You could have fun comparing it to a modern book and discussing how the vehicles and uniforms have changed and why no one uses life nets to catch people anymore (in case you’re not sure why, it’s because they’re extremely unsafe for victims and rescuers). The illustrations in this book are detailed and very pretty, and the words are perfect for toddlers- short phrases and lots of sound effects. Accuracy 9/10, Entertainment 8/10
Fire Truck by Peter Sis
This board book is a very cute story about a little boy that loves fire trucks so much that he turns into one! (Do you know any kids like that?) I’m pleased that it says fire truck and he actually becomes a ladder truck. It does show him using a life net, which you obviously wouldn’t see these days. As a whole, though, it’s a clever little book. Accuracy 8/10, Entertainment 9/10
Elmo’s World: Firefighters by Naomi Kleinberg and Kara McMahon
This board book is really cute and perfect for toddlers. The illustrations are a mix of photos and drawings, and they’re well done and attractive. The text includes some speech bubbles. It also includes some messages about fire safety in a nicely integrated way. I was feeling pretty good about the accuracy until the page where they were spraying water out of a hose hooked directly into a hydrant- hydrants are only used to supply water to engines, which pump it into smaller hoses at appropriate pressures to fight fires (so you would never see firefighters spraying water out of a hose that was connected directly to the hydrant. It’s another common children’s book mistake). Also, fire poles are actually fairly rare these days for safety reasons… but not completely obsolete so I can’t really take points away. Overall a very nice little book and probably worth owning! Accuracy 7/10, Entertainment 9/10
Tonka If I Could Drive a Fire Truck by Michael Teitelbaum
I give this book some major bonus points from the beginning for having a little girl as a main character. This one surprised me with it’s accuracy as well. It says “truck” and it’s a truck, so that’s always a good start! The only mistake I could really find was that it said firefighters rode to the fire standing on the back step (that practice was discontinued a long time ago for safety reasons). Other than that, not bad! They hook up the hoses correctly, the ambulance and police show up at the fire and do their jobs, and they use the ladder the right way. The illustrations are a little weird- they appear to be photos that have been blurred to look like drawings and the result is just kind of strange. There isn’t much text but it’s clear enough. Preschoolers will probably go nuts for this one. Accuracy 8/10, Entertainment 8/10
Going to the Firehouse by Mercer Mayer
Mercer Mayer has a great grasp of how to write an easy reader. He uses simple, easy-to-read words, but still manages to tell an exciting story. This would be a great book for first graders building their reading skills. It’s cartoony (and of course, there’s a dog at the firehouse) but overall the details aren’t bad. He correctly uses the term “ladder truck,” anyway. I am disappointed that the other firefighters appear to be riding on the tailboard to the call at the end. Still, it’s a cute story and definitely worth owning if you have an emergent reader that’s interested in firefighters. Accuracy 7/10, Entertainment 9/10
Firehouse by Katherine K. Winkleman
This is an odd book. The illustrations are strange, and she picked some very unusual things to emphasize. However, it seems to be very well researched and mostly accurate (for the time, it was published in 1994), and I think kids will find the pictures appealing. It covers some topics you don’t usually see in children’s books, like some fire service history, and how firehouses were laid out in the past compared to the present (she talks a lot about what firefighters did to protect themselves from diesel exhaust. I’m happy to tell you that this is no longer a problem- almost all firehouses these days have a filtration system that connects to the vehicles’ exhaust pipes and sucks the fumes outside) Overall, it’s aimed at older kids (second or third graders probably), who are likely to find it worth reading. Accuracy 9/10, Entertainment 7/10
A Day at the Fire Station by Richard Scarry
Isn’t Richard Scarry great? This book is definitely entertaining. He knows what kids like- there is a lot of gratuitous mess being made here- and the story is very funny. The vehicles and tools in the illustrations are definitely dated but not inaccurate. I’m pretty disappointed in whoever’s driving the engines forward at full speed into the firehouse (fire engines always back in so they’re ready to go for the next call)… but in this case it serves the story line. I’m not sure how the straw and cement and honey from the crash they responded to got back with them to splatter all over the firehouse… but again, the purpose here is clearly just to throw things around for giggles. I wouldn’t use this book to teach about firefighters but it’s definitely a lot of fun. Accuracy 5/10, Entertainment 10/10
This is the Firefighter by Laura Godwin
I definitely recommend this book! It’s very toddler-friendly. It has short, rhyming phrases “This is the station, this is the bell, and this is the signal that all is not well…”, the illustrations are cartoony and sweet, and it has a clear story line about them rescuing people and a cat from a big apartment building on fire (I enjoyed noticing how tastefully all the apartments are decorated. It appears to be a community of art collectors?). The way the firefighter chopped the door apart in the burning building is probably not how it would happen, and there are a lot of people walking upright and smiling in the smoky rooms, (not an air pack to be found), but it also has some nice little details, like using the term “command” for the person in charge of the fire. Overall, a very cute story. I read a hardcover version but Amazon has a board book as well, which, considering the intended audience, would be even better! Accuracy 6/10, Entertainment 9/10
The Little Fire Engine by Lois Lenski
This book is from 1946, which really explains a lot. You can tell it’s dated- they wear rubber coats, the firefighters ride on the tailboard to the call, and the nozzle has to be screwed onto the hose at the fire scene. As far as I can tell it’s pretty accurate for the time, but there are two questionable decisions being made here; first, as the firefighters start fighting the fire, the family is going in and out of the house rescuing their furniture. If you are going to read this book with children PLEASE stop and discuss why that’s a terrible idea! Also, as soon as the fire is put out (which they accomplish by cutting a hole in the roof and spraying water inside), the fireman tells the family “The fire is over! Move right back in again!,” which… also seems rather unsafe to me. Other than that, it is a nice story, well written for little kids and the illustrations are cheerful and clear. Accuracy 7/10, Entertainment 8/10
Fred the Firefighter by Felicity Brooks
I’m a big fan of this series because the illustrations are so darn cool (they’re photos of incredibly detailed clay figurines) and the text is pretty friendly and clear. Some aspects of the story are very accurate- I love the shots of the training the crew does at the beginning and some of the ways they use their tools at the fire are depicted properly. However, other details are not so great- it says “fire engine” when it’s a ladder truck, the way the helmets and uniforms are made is vaguely European but also just kind of weird looking, they walk instead of crawl into the smoky building, and the firefighter rescuing the cat isn’t wearing an air pack. Overall, though, I’d say the mistakes are minor enough and the illustrations are neat enough that it’s definitely worth owning. Accuracy 6/10, Entertainment 9/10
Ms. Murphy Fights Fires by Alice K. Flanagan
Yes! I love that there is a book dedicated to a female firefighter! The text is a little clunky and some of the pictures are slightly cheesy in how obviously they’re staged, but it’s not bad, and the message- about how a female firefighter was able to achieve her dreams- is great! It was photographed in collaboration with the FDNY so the accuracy is pretty good as well- she isn’t wearing her hood properly in the “burning” building, but other than that it’s all right. I was really hoping that the “Ms. Murphy” part meant that she was a teacher that volunteered as a firefighter at night, but apparently I’m the only one who’s that crazy. Still, a very cool book. Accuracy 9/10, Entertainment 6/10
Curious George at the Fire Station by Margret and H.A. Rey
In this story, Curious George visits a firehouse and causes trouble by ringing the fire bell. You can tell it’s dated (they use the term firemen, but in 1985 there weren’t too many women in the fire service so it was probably accurate anyway). I don’t think they were ringing big bells on fire engines in the 1980’s, I’m pretty sure they had sirens by then, but overall there isn’t much discussion of what firefighters do so there isn’t a ton to get wrong. It’s definitely a very cute story that kids will enjoy. Accuracy 6/10, Entertainment 8/10
Dot the Fire Dog by Lisa Desmini
We need to tackle the misconception that fire houses still have fire dogs living in them (I suppose it’s possible that a few do, but I’ve never heard of it in present-day real life). If a firehouse DID have a resident dog, it probably wouldn’t be going on calls and it certainly wouldn’t be running into burning buildings. Putting that aside, though, this is actually a very cute book with a sweet story about rescuing an old man. The rest of it is pretty accurate as well- the firefighters are using the appropriate tools and taking the appropriate actions at the fire. I do wish they’d shown an ambulance taking care of the man outside. The illustrations are pretty and the story is written clearly at a preschool level. Accuracy 7/10, Entertainment 7/10
A Very Busy Firehouse by Alyse Sweeney
The title of this book is a little misleading: I expected a story about a “very busy firehouse” but in reality, this pretty dry nonfiction, focused around firefighter vocabulary. It’s mostly correct, although I’ve never heard the area where fire trucks are kept called a “garage”- in a real firehouse, it’s always “the bays.” It hits another little pet peeve of mine- firefighters don’t use “walkie talkies“. In some places, they still say “handy talkies” and occasionally “portables“, but usually it’s just “radios.” Oh, and their “fire truck?”… it’s an engine. Still, the rest of it is good, the photos are very interesting, and while I wouldn’t use it as a read-aloud, it would be a useful reader for kids at about a second grade level. Accuracy 7/10, Entertainment 7/10
Fire Engine by Betsy Snyder
Well, it’s called “Fire Engine” and I think that’s what’s going on here, although the design of the vehicle in question is a little… unique. They also spray water out of a hose connected directly to a hydrant. Even if it isn’t the most spot-on, accuracy-wise, I’d recommend this book because it’s adorable and catchy. It has fun, bouncy rhyming text with some good sound effects, and the illustrations are cheerful and cute. The book itself is shaped like the fire truck so that would add a whole extra element of fun for a firefighter-obsessed toddler. Accuracy 3/10, Entertainment 10/10
Firefighter by Michael Rex
This one is a just a little paperback Scholastic reader, so you probably won’t be reading it aloud to a group. The illustrations are drawings, and I’m actually pretty pleased with how accurate they are. The firefighters do the appropriate things in the right order, and there are some nice realistic little details like the deck gun on top of the engine and the way they tighten the straps on their helmets. However, the text hits my worst kindergarten-teacher pet peeve- it’s marketed as easy to read because it has very few words, but the words are not chosen to be accessible to early readers. For example, reading the word “spray” requires the ability to read 3-consonant blends (spr) and a relatively unusual vowel team (ay), and most kids haven’t mastered both until halfway through first grade. The pictures aren’t linked to the text clearly enough to help, either. Good early readers have lots of well chosen, easy words. This one does not. Accuracy 10/10, Entertainment 2/10
Fireman Small by Wong Herbert Yee
I’m a sucker for a catchy rhyming story, so I have a soft spot for this little book. The story line is adorable- Fireman Small zipping all over town rescuing his friends (and I love how they come to say thank you at the end of the day!). It’s pretty riddled with inaccuracies, not the least of which is the fact that you would never see a firefighter working alone, especially in a city department. Somehow, though, this story is so sweet that I’m willing to overlook how far they stretched the truth. Accuracy 4/10, Entertainment 8/10
Fire! Fire! Hurry! Hurry! by Andrea Zimmerman
This one isn’t terribly accurate- I think they just invented their own fire truck design, they’re spraying water straight from the hydrant, they don’t have any real tools- but it’s okay because that’s not the point. This book is written for three-year-olds and I bet they’d love it! The story repeats itself in a predictable pattern, with some great phrases for kids to chant along with (“Fire! Fire! Hotter! Hotter! Hurry! Hurry! Water! Water!” The illustrations are colorful and great (I especially like the texture on the spaghetti), the firefighters are all animals, and there are lots of cute little details, like the gifts that the shop owners give them after they put out the various fires. Even the last page will leave kids laughing. You won’t learn anything about firefighters from this one but it’s definitely a lot of fun. Accuracy 2/10, Entertainment 10/10
A Day at the Fire Station by Megan Faulkner
This one is pretty spot on for accuracy. The first illustrations are photos taken at a New York City Firehouse. It describes the engine, the ladder, what the firefighters do, and includes pictures of some cool and rarely discussed tools like the thermal imaging camera and jaws of life. The only mistake is that it says air tanks provide oxygen- firefighters’ air tanks are filled with compressed air. This book really fails as a read aloud, though. In the beginning, it’s a group of kids visiting the fire station, in the middle it’s a list of random tools, then it abruptly switches to a fire safety checklist, without ever returning to the story line. It honestly seems like the author forgot what she was doing as she was writing it. It’s probably worth owning for the photos but it could have been so much better. Accuracy 9/10, Entertainment 2/10
Fire Truck (Truckin’ Board Books) by Joanne Barkan
This is a cute little board book but they make the classic mistake- this is an engine, not a truck. Also, a good chiefs don’t “shout”, they keep their heads and give calm, deliberate orders. I do give the author bonus points for knowing that hydrants supply water to the engine using giant hoses, and separate smaller hoses attached to the engine spray water on the fire. As a teacher, I’m not sure what age this book is directed to; it’s a board book, but the text is written for at least four year olds. It doesn’t rhyme, and the sentences are too long for toddlers. It could be worse.. but it could be better, too. Accuracy 6/10, Entertainment 4/10
Curious George and the Firefighters by Magret and H.A. Rey
Like many other Curious George books, they wrote a second version and released it many years later, but I think I preferred the first one in this case, because this book has one of my biggest problems with children’s books in this genre. Curious George is visiting the firehouse (and causing his usual trouble) when an alarm comes in, so he hitches a ride on the fire truck and “saves the day” at the emergency scene by entertaining some scared children. I have a big problem with a book encouraging kids to stow away on fire engines, for the obvious safety reasons. Although most kids know that George isn’t exactly a role model, since he ends up helping out at the fire, it frames his choice in a positive light. It’s just not a message I’m thrilled about. Accuracy 7/10, Entertainment 3/10
I couldn’t even find a listed author on this one, which really tells you how much thought they put into the text. Overall the accuracy is okay, but there’s absolutely no cohesiveness- it’s just a collection of random pictures in no particular order, with captions. The pictures aren’t particularly well chosen, either. One of them shows a firefighter being helped by two others, and the caption says “Firefighters make sure everyone is safe. Sometimes firefighters are hurt while helping other people.” …was that really something kids need to know? Another one says “Look at all the controls on this fire truck! The firefighter knows which each one is for.” (And I’m guessing the author doesn’t!) Also, the picture of the volunteer firefighter shows someone carrying buckets, which kind of implies that volunteer firefighters aren’t sophisticated enough to use hoses or something. In case you didn’t know, volunteer firefighters train to the exact same standards as career firefighters and use the same equipment. The only time you’d see firefighters carrying metal buckets would be when they’re emptying the contents of a fireplace at a chimney fire. Kids might enjoy looking at the pictures, but I still wouldn’t really consider this one worth owning. Accuracy 7/10, Entertainment 2/10
Eyewitness Readers: Fire Fighter! By Angela Royston
This one started strong but then went downhill. I know the author was trying to keep the words small for early readers, but I can’t stand the way she has the firefighters talking on the radio (which she, incorrectly, calls a walkie-talkie.) Instead of “Ladder 11 responding”, Firefighter Liz says “on the way!” and the chief says “I’ll meet you there!” (Does this town not have dispatchers?) I’m also not thrilled with the way the chief says, over the radio, “Tell Dan and Anthony to get their air packs ready!” I can assure you that no firefighters would ever be on their way to a structure fire and not have their air packs on. Later, at the fire, the firefighters made some other questionable choices, like climbing up a set of stairs that had apparently been burning and could collapse any second, instead of using a ladder to get to the second floor. As far as literary value goes, this is an average, moderately difficult reader, with photos that just look very staged. The highlight of the book was the character Anthony who was always hungry and looking for food. I related to him. Accuracy 5/10, Entertainment 5/10
The title is fire engine, but it’s a ladder truck on the cover. It says truck on the first page (correctly) and then engine on the second (incorrectly.) In an ideal world, perhaps, “Fast fire chiefs cars” might always reach a fire first but that is definitely not the reality. Also, the places to store tools on the side of fire engines are called “compartments”, not “lockers”. This book has very few words so it’s actually surprising how many of them are wrong. As far as literary quality goes, it’s got photos and a sentence per page but nothing special. Accuracy 3/10, Entertainment 5/10
Big Fire Engine by Kay Barnes
This one had me scratching my head, to be honest. The titular vehicle is sort of a vague, blobby cross between an engine and a truck, with a large, weird misshapen deck gun on the roof and a bucket without a ladder. The firefighters’ turnout coats just look like baggy button down shirts, and their helmets have a visor attached to the top that doesn’t even look functional. Also, they hook a hose with a nozzle on the end up to a pipe under a trap door in the street… and then spray water out of the deck gun mounted on the truck. I’m just not really sure what’s going on. It’s an oversized board book, so kids would probably like that, and the text is okay- the sound effects and speech bubbles would definitely appeal to some children, but it just doesn’t have anything to make it stand out in a sea of better books. Accuracy 1/10, Entertainment 5/10
LEGO City Fire Truck to the Rescue by Sonia Sander
Okay, I know that the purpose of this book is to sell legos, not to be a quality piece of children’s literature, but still, I had to laugh at the absolute absurdity going on here. It’s so awful it’s actually quite funny. To start- fire gear is always stored in the apparatus bays or a designated room next to them, because it gets exposed to smoke, which contains a lot of carcinogens. You would NOT see helmets hanging in the bunk room. Or axes and extinguishers. Important tools are always mounted in the truck, for reasons I hope would be obvious. One of the firemen has a beard (I say firemen because there are no women on this crew- also disappointing). Beards are a huge no-no because they interfere with the seal of the face mask for the air packs. Another one of the firefighters rides to the call in the bucket of the ladder truck (I hope I don’t need to explain why that wouldn’t happen). Firefighters do break open doors, but they pry them apart at the side, they don’t smash through the middle with an ax. My husband also pointed out that a cat would never come to the window of a burning building and meet the firefighters with a smile… okay, we can forgive that one, it is a children’s book! The rest of it is just ridiculous though… Oh, and if there is a place that uses helicopters to fight structure fires in cities, please send a message and let me know! I’m tempted to give it a 10 for entertainment because I had such a good laugh but really, even as an easy reader it’s mediocre at best. Accuracy 1/10, Entertainment 4/10
Lego City Fight This Fire! By Michael Anthony Steele
If you thought the other LEGO City one was bad… this book tells the story of a rookie’s first day on the department. When he proves himself incapable of handling the hose, the fire chief responds by giving him more specialized tasks, like operating the fire boat and then the helicopter… and then, in the middle of the night when a fire comes in and the truck driver isn’t there, he finally proves himself by driving the truck to the fire. This raises a lot of questions for me. How in the world did he graduate from the fire academy without knowing how to operate a hose? How light is this man if the fire hose lifted him clean into the air? How does this chief have permission to set so many fires all over the city for these trainings? Why does an urban department even have a helicopter? (because… it sells more legos?). And lastly, how did the chief not know the truck driver was out sick until the minute the fire came in? In the fire service, driving a vehicle is a big responsibility, reserved for firefighters who have proved themselves capable. Rookies always ride in the backseat. So, basically, this book is a piece of junk.. with a very enticing picture on the back of a LEGO Fire Station (available for purchase, I’m sure). Accuracy 0/10, Entertainment 3/10
Bubble Guppies: Firefighter Gil by Mary Tillworth
And here it is- the absolute WORST firefighter children’s book I’ve ever seen! (First of all, you should know that I only bought it because I misread the title as “Firefighter girl” so it was a disappointment the minute it arrived). I’ve never seen the Bubble Guppies TV show, and if you haven’t either, I’ll just tell you that they’re mermaids that live underwater in a world that looks weirdly like land. So. Let’s unpack all of the reasons that this is a terrible book. We’ll start with the major logical inconsistencies;
-They live UNDERWATER. Please explain to me why you would even need a fire department underwater in the first place.
-They whole plot revolves around a kid and a dog being rescued from a tree. Putting aside the question of what the tree’s doing at the bottom of the ocean- they’re floating in every picture. Why do they need to climb a ladder to go anywhere when they’re already swimming freely in three dimensions?
-At one point they open a fire hydrant and water gushes out. Water. Gushes out. Into the… water. Is anyone else feeling a little confused about the point of all this?
Once you get past the ridiculousness of it, though, I actually have an extremely serious problem with this book. At the end of the story, the kids follow the firefighters to a call. At the scene of the emergency, the firefighters get trapped in a tree and the kids rescue them. One kid climbs the ladder on the fire truck while the other one pulls the levers on the truck. As a teacher and a firefighter, I see this as a major safety issue. A children’s book has absolutely no business encouraging kids (or anyone!) to follow rescue vehicles to emergencies, attempt to operate the controls on those vehicles, or climb on them. Do I think there’s a high likelihood that a kid would read this book and then immediately run down the street and get themselves hurt on the scene of a house fire? No. But this book is aimed at preschoolers, a famously impressionable group, and I don’t understand why you would even go there. Please don’t buy this piece of garbage, and if you own it already, burn the thing. Accuracy 0/10, Entertainment 0/10
And that concludes our guide to children’s books about firefighters!
Obviously there are far too many children’s books about firefighters for me to review every single one, but if there’s a book missing from this list that you’re really curious about, leave a comment and let me know, and I’ll do my best to find it and add it!
What’s your favorite children’s book about firefighters? Is there one you love that you’re now seeing in a new light? Leave a comment and let me know!
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