Mary Pope Osborne (of Magic Tree House fame) honors the 343 firefighters who died on September 11 by retelling a 19th-century legend about another heroic NYC blaze battler.
Eight-feet-tall with "hands as big as Virginia hams," Mose Humphreys cuts a classic tall-tale figure, lifting trolley cars over his head and rescuing babies inside a stovepipe hat. And, echoing the World Trade Center attacks, "when others ran away from danger, Mose ran toward it." New York's Bravest follows the firefighting exploits of the mythic Mose and "his boys" in dramatic, near-theatrical spreads, right up to a fateful hotel fire near the Hudson: "All night, Mose ran in and out of the building, rescuing bankers, bakers, shoemakers, dressmakers, preachers, and politicians." But when the smoke clears, Mose is nowhere to be found. His fellows nervously hope that he's simply disappeared to drive a mule team in the Dakotas or to mine gold in California. But no, an old-timer later surmises, "Truth is, Mose is right here. He's marchin' with us in our parades. He's kickin' up his heels at our fancy dances.... And whenever we climb our ladders toward a blazing sky, he climbs with us."
Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher ably carry the alternating spectacle and pathos in New York's Bravest with colorful, outlandishly staged paintings. And while Pope Osborne's solemnity can border on maudlin (not surprising for a tribute), she ultimately succeeds in honoring our common potential for hope and simple courage, with the understanding that, while the bravery of one fancifully gifted individual might not be all that remarkable, the bravery of many--on and after September 11--certainly is.) (Ages 4 to 8) --Paul Hughes
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From Publishers Weekly
Past and present combine to stirring effect in this tall tale with real-world reverberations. Dedicated "To the memory of the 343 New York City firefighters who gave their lives to save others on September 11, 2001," Osborne's (the Magic Tree House series) story, set against 19th-century New York City, draws on the legend of real-life firefighter Mose Humphrey. In a subtle parallel to last fall's catastrophe, the author notes that eight-feet-tall Mose, with "hands as big as Virginia hams," runs toward danger as others run away. Johnson and Fancher (Copplia) portray the man's powerful figure from street level, to emphasize his height and heft as he rushes to a burning building or lifts a horse-drawn trolley that bars the hero's way. After Mose courageously makes repeated trips into a burning hotel to rescue all of the guests, his co-workers realize that Mose is nowhere to be found. This vague sense of loss and lack of resolution will hit home for many youngsters; the artists evoke a solemn mood with ash-covered cobblestone streets and the long faces of fellow firefighters. But the words of an old-timer help them carry on their noble mission in the hero's memory: "Whenever we climb our ladders toward a blazing sky, he climbs with us." Author and artist carefully and respectfully balance the tall-tale ingredients with actual events to craft a loving tribute one that may well help youngsters cope with the loss of these brave leaders. Ages 5-8.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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