Four Book Reviews: Firefighter Stories

Why four reviews? Because that’s how many books we own about firefighters. If you know of other good ones, post a comment!

Cover image of the book Firefighters A to Z showing two firefighters, one knocking a hole in a wall and the other holding a fire hose.

1. Fightfighters A to Z by Chris L. Demarest is our latest acquisition and the inspiration for this article. It’s hard for me to recommend books worthy of purchase new (I buy virtually all books used), but this is surely one.

It’s a traditional “A is for…, B is for…” alphabet book, except it has large format 8.5″x12″ pages, beautifully illustrated with realistic firefighting scenes in bold pastels. The words and pictures are highly educational.

I was sold when I flipped the book open and saw a female firefighter sliding down a fire pole. Our daughter’s favorite playground feature is a fire pole and we work hard to combat her calling it a fireMAN’s pole and the notion that girls can’t be firefighters.

Amazingly, the book manages to tell a linear story, from firefighters leaving the fire station to arriving and fighting the fire, and then returning home, all one alphabet letter at a time. In case you’re wondering, X is for eXtinguished.

Along the way, tools and techniques of the trade are mentioned in simple single sentences. For example:

  • “H is for hoses and hydrants we need.”
  • “L is for ladders that rise several floors.”
  • “K is for K-tool to open locked doors.”

K-tool was the one unfamiliar term for me, but the sentence and picture imply its meaning. Every page is a launching point for discussion with our daughter. This book reveals the world of fighting fires better than any I’ve seen.

Cover of the book Firegirl showing a red-headed girl holding an oxygen tank and mask.

2. Firegirl by Gibson Rich is a historical curiosity. It was published in 1972 by The Feminist Press, and indicates how far women’s liberation has progressed in America.

Firegirl is the story of red-headed Brenda, a pre-teen fire engine aficionado who, with echoes of Radar O’Reilly, can hear fire engine sirens before anyone else. Her mom says she “must be part fireman.”

Her dad tells her, “Girls can’t be a fireman. Only boys can.”

On a class trip to a fire station, she demonstrates her vast firefighting knowledge, only to be mocked by the fire chief when she expresses her ambition to be a fireman.

“You hear that boys?” the chief calls to his cohorts. Everyone laughs, seemingly ongoing in fits and giggles, especially when she insists on filling out a job application.

The only supportive voice in the book is Jerry, a conspicuously black fireman who befriended her earlier in the story. It’s normal today, but I say conspicuously black because it seems a little too obvious for 1972 from a publisher named Feminist Press.

Anyhow, Brenda then sneaks onto a fire truck to look at the equipment and is a stowaway as the engine surprisingly hurries to a real fire. What then? Oh no! A bunny is trapped in an attic window too small for the firemen, so Brenda jumps out, scrambles up a ladder before anyone knows what’s up, enters the burning attic and saves the bunny.

Having proved herself, she has earned herself a weekend position as a firegirl in order to learn the firefighting trade.

So… let’s recap…. a girl runs away from a class field trip and into a burning building. That’s exactly the type of message you want to give your children, right? Independent woman, indeed.

Cover image for the book Dot the Fire Dog showing a dalmation riding in a fire engine.

3. Dot the Fire Dog by Lisa Desimini is straight 2- to 3-year-old fare, though fine for any non-gnawing baby.

It’s a solidly decent story about a dalmatian who hangs around the fire station, goes out to a fire, saves a kitten and returns home.

Oh, and the firefighters do stuff too.

My softcover copy retailed for $4 through the school market (something parents of preschoolers know about), and that price is about right.

Image of the book Don't Wake Up Mama showing five monkeys outside their mother's room.

4. Don’t Wake Up Mama! (now titled Five Little Monkeys Bake a Birthday Cake) by Eileen Christelow is totally not about firefighting, but is included here for the subtle fire-related sexual tension it portrays.


This book is part of a series featuring five misbehaving juvenile monkeys and their mother. This time around the kids are baking a birthday cake for Mama as she sleeps. They’re very noisy and messy and with every bang, the kids say, “Shhh! Don’t wake up Mama!”

But they end up burning the cake, and smoke begins to billow from the home as Mama sleeps. Thank God two firemen arrive at her bedroom door to save her.

Oh, but the cake is salvageable, so the kids, Mama, and the two firemen sit down to eat. On the last page, Mama and one of the firemen are locked in a gaze, and, well, maybe it’s my own sexual insecurity speaking, but I don’t think those five little monkeys are related. The author should write a sequel, “Shhh! Don’t tell Papa!”

Image from the last scene in Don't Wake Up Mama in which the five monkeys, two firemen and Mama eat cake around a table.

Oh, but I jest. Maybe. Sort of. Our daughter loves the Little Monkeys series.

So… do you have any favorite firefighting books of your own?


3 Responses to “Four Book Reviews: Firefighter Stories”

  1. Janelle says:

    We read The Fire Engine Book (Little Golden Book) when we were little. Our copy back then was a great big book, but you are still able to buy the little golden book size. The classic illustrations are wonderful, and the verses are short and sweet…perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. Sorry, no female firefighters though.

    October 28th, 2008 at 9:56 am

  2. N1nj4G1rl says:

    I second the above poster! The full title is The Great Big Fire Engine Book by Tibor Gergely, it was one of my favorite book to have read to me when i was a wee ninja. My mom, who loves to tell about how i demanded it again and again, recently bought me a copy just like the one I had when I was little and I will be reading it to my son. There are some beautiful illustrations!

    October 28th, 2008 at 8:23 pm

  3. gertie says:

    As a kid I always liked Firecat, an easy-reader book (and the first book I remember actually reading on my own). From what I remember of the plot, it’s about a cat who has unusually large paws, which make him clumsy and unpopular. Then he discovers that his large paws are great for sliding down a fire pole and holding a fire hose, so he becomes a firefighter and lives happily ever after.

    Click on my name to see it on Amazon.

    October 28th, 2008 at 10:34 pm