Armstrong, Jennifer illustrated by Owen Smith. Magnus at the Fire. Simon & Schuster, 2005. ISBN 978-0689839221. 32pp $15.95
This informative picture book tells the story of the phasing out of horse-drawn fire engines as they were replaced with more cost-efficient, self-propelled fire engines in the early 1900’s by following the story of Magnus, a strong and handsome gray who doesn’t take well to retirement. Jumping the fence that enclosed his new pasture when he hears the fire bell clang, Magnus gets to the fire before the firemen. Mostly, he’s in the way, but when the new engine breaks down before it arrives at its destination, Magnus is there to help.
Armstrong flavors the text with fire house and period slang (smoke eaters, fella). Her descriptions of Magnus’s troublemaking and subsequent heroics develop the drama and fit the pace of the story. An excellent author’s note at the end adds background and texture to the tale. Smith’s horses leap off the page, rippling with muscle while flames lick at the air and smoke billows. Text and images combine for an energetic and appealing story full of stuff children love: noble animals, excitement, a hero and a happy ending.
As interest in firefighters remains high with the 4-8 age group; recommended for larger collections.