Firehorse Max

Sara London, Author, Ann Arnold, Illustrator
Sara London, Author, Ann Arnold, Illustrator Di Capua $14.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-06-205094-6
Hardcover - 32 pages - 978-0-06-205095-3
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In this historically resonant picture-book debut, London and Arnold create a cozy town of cobblestone walks and wooden storefronts, in which the invention of the horseless carriage leaves Firehorse Max unemployed. Fortunately, dry-goods peddler Grandpa Lev has just put his cart-horse out to pasture, and buys Max at an auction. Trouble is, every time Max hears the fire alarm, he drags Grandpa Lev's wagon through the streets at top speed, searching for the blaze. ""We must think of something Max loves even more than putting out fires,"" Grandpa Lev says. A subtle connection between Max and music, established when Max swishes his tail to a tune and stops to listen to a piano sonata, solves the problem: Grandpa Lev's fiddle playing keeps Max content. London creates a neighborly American town where a variety of people comment on each dilemma. Although the author never mentions a melting pot, characters like the elderly Mrs. Gamboni and Lev's grandchildren represent first-, second- and third-generation immigrants. Arnold's (Fanny at Chez Panisse) small Vermont town is marked by hand-lettered shop signs and populated with ladies in long skirts and gentlemen in straw boaters. She envisions Max as a graceful black horse with a white star on his forehead and Grandpa Lev's cart as a four-wheel traveling department store, with picture frames, rolling pins, shoes and a watering can. The deep evergreen, violet and crimson pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations suggest times gone by (as in one double-page spread of a starlit night, as a town awakened by fire bells stirs to find its source). The wealth of visual and textual details are sure to spark children's curiosity about the past. Ages 3-up. (Oct.)
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