The Firehouse Light

Janet Nolan, illus. by Marie Lafrance, Tricycle, $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-58246-298-1
Nolan (A Father's Day Thank You) tells the story of a four-watt lightbulb that was installed in a California fire station in 1901 and has been burning ever since. She begins "a long time ago," when volunteers fought fires with buckets, axes, and hand-pulled carts with water hoses. Working in smooth tandem, the conversational narrative and Lafrance's (A Wizard in Love) finely detailed, folk art–style acrylics follow the continuum of time, subtly chronicling social, technological, and automotive changes throughout the decades while remaining focused on the constancy of the bulb (the refrain "Day after day, year after year, the lightbulb did not burn out," opens most scenes). Particularly illuminating is the evolution of firefighting equipment, vehicles, and alert systems. In a thoughtful juxtaposition, contemporary firefighters and other emergency responders, red lights flashing, race through the streets of what is now a city, "past halogen, fluorescent and incandescent lights, past neon and strobe lights," while the bulb, glowing "no brighter than a handful of fireflies," hangs by its cord back at the station. A poetic bridge between past and present. Ages 5–9. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/10/2010
Release date: 05/01/2010
Genre: Children's
Library Binding - 32 pages - 978-1-58246-346-9
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