From School Library Journal
Grade 1-4–In this stirring historical story, a heroic and determined horse refuses to be put out to pasture after his firefighting days come to an end. Magnus, a mighty gray stallion, and his companions have been trained to pull the heavy steam pumper to fires. One day, the captain returns to the station with a motorized fire engine, and Magnus is put in a nearby field. At the sound of the alarm, he is over the fence and following the truck down the street. The captain considers him a dangerous nuisance until the new engine breaks down and Magnus has the chance to fight one more blaze. Afterward, a retired fireman takes the hero to his farm where he becomes a beloved companion to the man's grandchildren. Impressive oil paintings in vibrant colors capture the drama of firefighting in the 1800s. The horses, particularly Magnus, are striking, especially in their resemblance to the powerful war horses of Renaissance art. Tension is etched on the faces of the men as they hasten to a burning building, but there are also moments of empathy between them and the animals. The exciting spreads will pull readers into the action. This is a fine tribute to the four-legged "smoke eaters" that bravely served their communities.– Carol Schene, Taunton Public Schools, MA
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PreS-Gr. 2. Strong, gray Magnus has been a fire horse his whole life; he pulls the giant steam pumper to each site, knows how to "handle himself around calamity and chaos," and understands that he must stand "rock steady" while the firemen work. Then the captain brings in a motorized fire engine. Magnus and his team are put out to pasture, but when the fire bell rings, Magnus can't keep from leaping the fence and racing to the scene to help. The firemen scoff at the old-timer--until the fire engine breaks down en route to a blaze, and Magnus is called into duty and celebrated as a hero. Armstrong's pacing lags a bit, but her vivid, colloquial language (the new engine is a "burping, belching, oil-smelling newfangled contraption") will capture children's attention, as will the lustrous oil illustrations, reminiscent of WPA paintings of laborers that show magnificent horses in action. An author's note gives more information about fire horses in American history. Gillian EngbergCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved