Heralding Heroes
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Party with the Animals

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, many people began to see firefighters with new, more appreciative, eyes. This is perhaps part of the reason that New York's Bravest (Random House, Aug.), a picture-book tall tale by Mary Pope Osborne (author of the Magic Tree House series), illus. by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, is resonating with so many readers—and especially with firefighters' families.

In her story, which first appeared in the author's American Tall Tales (Knopf, 1991), Osborne paints a superhero-ish portrait of Mose Humphreys, a real-life volunteer firefighter in 1840s New York City, described as eight feet tall with "hands as big as Virginia hams." Mose's bravery in the face of enormous danger and his eventual death in the line of duty may sound eerily familiar to young readers who have seen September 11 news coverage or witnessed such heroism and loss firsthand. Osborne dedicated New York's Bravest to the 343 New York City firefighters who perished at the site of the World Trade Center, and Random House has further taken up the mantle to honor New York City area firefighters in a unique way. The publisher has been working closely with the Silver Shield Foundation—a group that funds the education for the children of firefighters and police officers who have died in the line of duty—to get New York's Bravest into the hands of young readers who may take particular comfort in it. (Random House donated $1 million to Silver Shield last year as part of its 9/11 charitable efforts.)

Via Silver Shield, Random House provided 400 copies of the book for distribution at the monthly meeting of the Uniformed Firefighters Association this past September. Those 400 books also contained a letter inviting firefighter families to contact Random House if they knew of someone else who might benefit from receiving the book.

Associate director of publicity Melanie Chang noted, "I've probably received more than 25 phone calls requesting copies." Additionally, Random House sent a letter offering the book to Silver Shield families who have lost a firefighter, which resulted in another 150 requests for the book.