when is fire safety month?

Smokey the Bear.  McGruff the Crime Dog.  Bert the Turtle.  Why did any parent have to educate their children on the perils of crime, fire, or nuclear attack when you had these cuddly mascots around?

Apparently  these mascots were greatly needed as we have discovered in our home after reading Lois Lenski’s 1946 classic, “The Little Fire Engine.”  Someone had checked out all of the nonfiction fire engine books at Durham’s Main Library (and I mean ALL.  Not one remained on the shelf.), so we had to satisfy our fire engine curiosity with the dregs found in the fiction section.

Lenski’s book about Fireman Small starts out just fine; he drives a very cute old fashioned fire engine in Tinytown with a charming little brass bell.


His handling of the fire crisis, however, can’t possibly be according to protocol.  When Fireman Small gets to the scene, he orders the water turned on.  Meanwhile, “the family carry sofa, lamps, tables, and chairs out of the house.”  Whaaaat?  What happened to get out of the house and stay out?

The firemen quickly determine where the blaze is (in the downstairs kitchen) and carry the hose to the back of the house.  But oh no!  Apparently the mama who is busy rescuing Great Aunt Nelly’s table lamp has forgotten that she has three children!  “A little girl is standing at the upstairs window.  She has a kitten in her arms.  ‘Mama!’ she calls.”

Are you kidding me?  The mother in the story is busy dragging oriental rugs out of the house before determining that all of her offspring are outside?  But wait!  There’s more!

“Fireman Small goes up the ladder again.  He takes his axe.  The fire is in the attic now.  He chops a hole in the roof.  The firemen take the hose up the ladder.  Fireman Small squirts water down into the hole.  Z-z-z-z-z!  White clouds of steam rise up.  The flames die down.  ‘The fire is over !’ says Fireman Small.  ‘Move right back in again!’  The family carry their sofa, lamps, tables, and chairs into the house.”

Seriously?  There has just been a fire in your kitchen.  The fire department has chopped a hole into your roof and doused your home in enough water to put out a fire downstairs, and you are supposed to move right back in and resume cooking your pot roast?  Even little w. who is 3.5 years old turned and looked at me and said, “But Mama, there’s a hole in their roof!”  which led to a discussion about the insurance adjusters needing to come and how it might be better if they stayed at Grammy’s house for awhile.

Honestly, Lois Lenski, if a three year old can see through your plot, what audience were you writing for??


1 Comment »

  1. kate said

    a ha ha ha ha ha!!!! love this post

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