The Little Fireboat That Could

Interview

Friday, September 09, 2011

Cover of Fireboat: The Adventures of John J. Harvey Cover of Fireboat: The Adventures of John J. Harvey (G.P. Putnam's Sons, Maira Kalman)

Maira Kalman has written and illustrated more than a dozen books, for children and adults. In the months following 9/11, when a friend suggested she write a book about the attacks, she said, “Absolutely not. I'm in the world of humor. This is a very sad story and it's very intense and I don't want to deal with it.”

However, within a year, she published Fireboat, a children's book. It's a true story about a real boat in New York's harbor. The book starts when the boat was new, the 1930s, and Kalman includes lovely period details about life in the city — the new Empire State Building, the new Snickers bar. The boat ages gracefully and is retired. But then the story turns to September 11, 2001, when the old fireboat is pressed into service to help fight the fires at Ground Zero.

Kalman explains to Kurt Andersen, “it really talks to kids about how horrific things can happen — and will happen. So what do you do?”

 

 

Slideshow: Scenes from Maira Kalman’s Fireboat

Fireboat Maira Kalman
From Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey © 2002 by Maira Kalman.
Used by permission of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, Penguin Group (USA) Inc. All rights reserved.

Maira Kalman wrote and illustrated the children’s book Fireboat, which tells the true story of the John J. Harvey, an aging fireboat that was used to battled flames at Ground Zero on 9/11. The book begins with a brief history of 1931, the year in which the Harvey was first launched — and construction on the Empire State Building was completed.

Fireboat Maira Kalman
From Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey © 2002 by Maira Kalman.
Used by permission of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, Penguin Group (USA) Inc. All rights reserved.

The George Washington Bridge, which was also completed in 1931.

Fireboat Maira Kalman
From Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey © 2002 by Maira Kalman.
Used by permission of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, Penguin Group (USA) Inc. All rights reserved.

The John J. Harvey.

Fireboat Maira Kalman
From Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey © 2002 by Maira Kalman.
Used by permission of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, Penguin Group (USA) Inc. All rights reserved.

After the Harvey retires, the story shifts to 2001 and the events of 9/11.

Fireboat Maira Kalman
From Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey © 2002 by Maira Kalman.
Used by permission of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, Penguin Group (USA) Inc. All rights reserved.

The Harvey was called upon to pump water from the New York Harbor alongside other fireboats.

Fireboat Maira Kalman
From Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey © 2002 by Maira Kalman.
Used by permission of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, Penguin Group (USA) Inc. All rights reserved.

An image from Fireboat.

Guests:

Maira Kalman

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