Lois Lenski Rescue Me

The Little Fire Engine is a classic picture book that should NOT be shared with children. I love Lois Lenski's books about Mr. Small and his little dog Tinker. My kids loved Cowboy Small, Policeman Small, Farmer Small, The Little Train, and The Little Sailboat. The powerful, simple images, and day-in-the-life stories are implanted forever in our memories.

Unfortunately, the book about Fireman Small is outdated in a way that is dangerous. Firefighters and teachers emphasize to children that they must get out of a burning building, and meet their family members at an agreed upon place to make sure everyone is out. Under no circumstances should children take time to gather belongings or go back into the house to get something.

In The Little Fire Engine, the family carries the sofa, lamps, tables, chairs, a doll buggy, a bucket, and a frying pan out of the house. The family doesn't even notice that a daughter has not come out of the house for several more pages.

Because this book was part of the fire safety education when I was an elementary student in the Sixties, I know the effect of Lenski's images. Kids chatted on the playground about which of their toys they would rescue from a fire. I dwelled on this question in my insomnia for years. What would I save? Sometimes I favored my Barbie Doll cases, other times my graph paper drawings of Perfect House floorplans. I still hear women my age talk about how they would have to get all their photo albums out of the house.

The message we all need to have implanted in our memory in case of fire is rescue me, not stuff. The City of Plano's Parks and Recreation Department offers fire station tours for children age 3-5. Your city probably does, too. That's a great way for children to be introduced to fire safety by friendly firefighters, and to see the fire trucks up close. There's information for kids at the U.S. Fire Administration site, too.

Like Robert McCloskey, Lois Lenski was an Ohio author. The Ohioana Authors site has useful information on authors' lives and books. Lenski died in 1974.

If you were hoping to find something here about Denis Leary's Tommy Gavin, please try Rescue Me instead.

© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder

1 comment:

Genevieve said...

I agree. That book is unsafe!


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