Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hook and Ladder: Firehouse! by Mark Teague



Author-illustrator Mark Teague's brief text deadpans its way through the narrative, while his bright oil-color illustrations tell the tale with boisterous portrayals of his awkward but appealing bulldog hero Edward in his latest, Firehouse! (Orchard Books, 2010). Edward is a doughty, Edwardian-togged Boston bull terrier, a bit on the clumsy side, but persistent in his dogged pursuit of his latest fancy. In Teague's first book about this pair, Funny Farm, Edward mucks about as visiting farmhand with country cousin Judy's family, excelling only in putting away Judy's hardy farm fare. In this newest one, Edward inexplicably decides that he's cut out to be a firefigher--with mixed but amusing results.

Edward and Judy are welcomed to spend the day at the firehouse presided over by a team of brave Dalmatians, who share their duties with them, beginning with washing the firetruck. "A clean engine is a happy engine," the leader intones seriously, as Edward drifts into a fantasy of racing to a fire at the wheel of the truck. During a tour of the living quarters, the alarm sounds for a fire drill, and Edward's attempt to slide deftly down the firepole end with a sound thud on his backside.

Undeterred, Edward tries to take a hand in the drill, but clearly he's got a long way to go in mastering the skills of firefighting. When Judy opens the fire hydrant, Edward manages to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and gets quite a dousing. Handling the business end of a thrashing fire hose is not his strong suit either, and in the simulated ladder climb, he gets a bit of altophobia and undergoes the embarrassing experience of the fireman's carry over the shoulder of a burly firefighter on his way down.

Back at the firehouse, Edward shows off his best skill as he tucks into the firehouse cook's spaghetti and meatballs like the devoted eater he is. Just as he's slurped down his dinner, the real alarm goes off and Edward, Judy, and the whole crew don their slickers and race off, sirens blaring. At the end of the run, there's no fire, just a helpless kitty stuck way out on a high limb.



And the dauntless bulldog, fortified by drill practice and plenty of spaghetti, clambers right up the ladder and brings the little cat to safety, and the successful rescue sets off a parade of celebration back to the firehouse.

Then it's bedtime at the firehouse and Edward sleeps the sleep of the righteous firefighter that night, with the rescued kitten at his side.

Teague, creator of the hilarious and best-selling Ike LaRue tales, beginning with Dear Mrs. La Rue: Letters From Obedience School and familiar illustrator of Jane Yolen's highly popular How Do Dinosaurs series, has created in this one and its predecessor Funny Farm, a couple of funny stories with a lovable and memorable character just perfect for preschool and Kindergarten classes preparing for those favorite field trips to farms and firehouses. As usual, Teague fills his pages with humorous touches which add to storytime appeal, in this case mouse firemen in full uniform, slickers and firehats, appear throughout the story and will delight sharp-eyed kids who follow their antics throughout. With his childlike enthusiasm and enduring and endearing pluck, Edward is a delightful character that children who have always wanted to ring the bell or slide down the firepole will identify with and love.

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