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Thursday, August 11, 2016

A Fire Truck Named Red, written by Randall De Seve and illustrated by Bob Staake. Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2016. $19.50 ages 5 and up

"Rowan looked over at Papa's cat, Fritz. Cats are boring, he thought. Still, he knew how to be polite. "So what did you do?" "Red and I rushed to the scene!" "Red's ladder reached all the way up - and we that scared cat down. Poor thing kicked and clawed ... "

Rowan has a very special wish for his birthday: a brand new, shiny red fire truck. Is that what he gets? No, it is not! Instead, he gets Red, a fire truck whose exterior exhibits a lot of wear and tear. It has scratches and rust spots, an old broken ladder, worn tires and a decidedly old-fashioned feel - nothing like the streamlined, brand new engine with the $99 price tag in the toy store window.

Red is the fire truck his grandfather had when he was a child. Papa is convinced they can bring Red back to his glory days. As they work, Papa relates childhood memories of the adventures that he and Red shared. Rowan is not easy to convince.

Bob Staake creates those memories in sepia tones and fills the movie-like images with action, expression and a good deal of excitement. Papa ensures that each new adventure will grab Rowan's attention. Rowan can't help himself: he is transported back in time to when Papa and Red were heroes for a cat, elephants, and a fire at the library (the cause of the peeled paint on Red's hood). As the excitement of Papa's story builds, so does Rowan's willingness to help bring Red back to glory, and even to play a role in the final act of Papa's tale.

Teamwork, memories and love of family make this a stand-out book for story time reading with young children. Add it to your list of books to be read leading up to Grandparent's Day in September. It might just have little ones asking their nanas and papas about times past.

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