Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, August 30, 2013

He's On The Run Helping Heroes

Heroes appear everywhere, everyday; the spotlight shining on some more than others.  To the recipient of those actions though, one is no more important than another.  When asking children what they would like to be when they grow up, a small voice will always shout firefighter.  At least one comes trick-or-treating to my home every year.

Unlike living in a highly populated area near larger cities, where I live, when the alarm is given over their radios, volunteers in trucks with flashing lights leave neighboring townships and the city proper to converge on the fire station downtown or in a township.  Although the sirens mean someone needs assistance, people take comfort when they see these men and women responding.  Like our younger students who visit the fire station each spring, our favorite cookie character from The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School is traveling with his class on a field trip.  The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Fire Truck (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., January 27, 2013) written by Laura Murray with illustrations by Mike Lowery is another running, rhyming romp introducing readers to hometown heroes.

On a bright Monday morning, my teacher breezed in.

Her initial announcement is met with a chorus of cheers from classmates one and all. They are taking a bus to meet the firefighters at Company Four and their canine teammate, Spot.  Hopping into a backpack the Gingerbread Man comes along in comfort.

Arriving at the station students listen and learn but the Gingerbread Man is shaken about so much he pops out of the pocket landing right on Spot's nose.  Catching a whiff and taking a taste of this superb sweetness, the pooch prepares for the big gulp.  With a leap Gingerbread Man is speeding quickly into the station with the determined Dalmatian hot on his heels.

Weaving among the students trying on gear, quick as a wink, the trotting treat takes a seat in the fire truck.  Barely taking time to enjoy his escape, the fascination of the dashboard and steering wheel capture the Gingerbread Man's attention.  Before long he is able to explore some more, climbing a nearby pole, jumping on beds and peeking into the firefighter's kitchen with lunch steaming from a simmering pot.

WOOO goes the alarm.  Firefighters spring into action; the Gingerbread Man does too.  Hanging on as tight as he can, he rides the truck to help fight the fire.  Our baked buddy handles the hose, pulls the nozzle and a wild, lively river of water pours out.  It's a good thing Fire Chief Anne is nearby.  It's a good thing the Gingerbread Man went along for the ride.  Heroes every one, helmets all around!  He's the Gingerbread Man, he runs, he rides, he turns the tide!

When it comes to writing rhymes, Laura Murray places winning combinations in her sentences, never forced but full of fun. Her lively language takes readers on a tour of the fire station, the tools used by the firefighters and the every day action using the Gingerbread Man's race from Spot as the ideal recipe for exciting exploration.  Alternating between a narrative and character conversations Murray welcomes participation by readers.  Here is one of her passages.

Spot wasn't there--
a sure sign of good luck.
So I slipped down the pole
and then jumped on the truck.

"I'll ride to the rescue
as fast as I can.
I want to help, too! I'm the

Now I ask you, look at that Gingerbread Man perched on the fire hydrant, hands on hips outside the fire station. How can you resist this cute little guy wearing a firefighter's helmet from Company Four?  The front jacket and cover allude to the potential problem of Spot but the back cover makes it clear Dalmatian trouble is in our spicy friend's future.  A rustic red, a shade of the fire truck color, covers the opening and closing endpapers with white outline sketches of the Gingerbread Man scattered across both.

Rendered in ink, traditional screen printing and digital color, Mike Lowery's crisp graphics convey the storyline with clarity and the characters' actions with engaging energy.  With loosely sketched panels separating the action on many of the pages and dialogue appearing in speech bubbles this has the partial feel of a comic blended with frameless single and double page spreads.  In a sequence of pictures Lowery brings readers into the story by zooming in and out on particular elements in the action.  One of my favorite illustrations is the Gingerbread Man sitting behind the wheel of the huge fire truck pretending to drive.

The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Fire Truck written by Laura Murray with illustrations by Mike Lowery is a rhythmic adventure through an important fixture in our communities, highlighting what one can find in a fire station, on a fire truck and the people dedicated to serving others.  As an introduction to Fire Prevention Week, a field trip or a visit by firefighters, this title is a treasure.  A poster is included in a back pocket with four panels of activities on one side and the Gingerbread Man giving guidance when there's smoke on the other.

Please follow the links embedded above to the author and illustrator websites. Here is a link to a printable teacher's guide.  John Schumacher invited author Laura Murray to his site Watch. Connect. Read. for an author interview.

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