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For Your Library

Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman, G.P. Putnam's Sons, , 2002.

The horror of September 11, 2001 brings a huge challenge for addressing this event in any way with children. Nevertheless, children will learn about the event unintentionally as they overhear and absorb news accounts and commentary, adult conversations and media references. One successful approach to bringing part of the story to an appropriate child's level is a focus on an individual story of a retired fireboat that joined in the heroic effort to save lives and limit the damage of the collapse and fires of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers.

Fireboat is the illustrated true story of the John J. Harvey beginning with its beginning in 1931 during a very different time in history. After describing the times and the special features of the Harvey and its activities and mission, eventually the fireboat is put to rest. In 1995, a group of friends rescued the boat from its scrapheap destination and it was restored to in both appearance and function. When the attacks of September 11 came and the Twin Towers were burning, the Harvey was called upon to once again and pumped water for four days and four nights to get the fire under control. It is a wonderfully illustrated and told story of unexpected heroism in a time of great loss and need. It appropriately does not let the attacks wholly define the event or get the last word.

Special thanks to (now retired) school counselor, Karen Lowery, for this book recommendation.

Walking Backward by Catherine Austen, Orca Book Publishers, , 2009.

This is a quirky book with some darkly funny stuff, insights into families and grief plus information about mourning practices of different religions. Twelve-year-old Josh tells the story journal-style as his family reels from the strange accidental death of his mother. Someone put a snake in the passenger seat of his mother's car, and being phobic about snakes, his mother drove the car into a tree. Now Josh is left with the mystery of who put the snake in the car, the responsibility of parenting his four-year-old brother as his father spends his time in the basement trying to invent a time machine and the concern that his mother's death will be listed in the Darwin awards for deaths caused by the deceased person's stupidity. It's a lot to handle, even for a very bright kid who knows a lot about history and religious practices and is the best soccer player on his team. Trying to help his brother and himself, they start a "Mom book" scrapbook while his brother walks backwards so he can see everyone's face to remember in case they die. It's not easy, but this unusual family finds ways to begin to live again and be together as a different kind of family. Sounds strange, but it works.

The dead-parent genre is a busy one, but Austen breaks from the pack with this confident and peculiar debut.--Booklist

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