More at The Carle, the Art of Maira Kalman, and “Fireboat”

After visiting the Angels exhibition at the Eric Carle Museum, I viewed the art of Maira Kalman.


I knew this dog, at least I thought I did.  While there was something familiar here, I had to admit I don’t really know the author or her books.  It’s a good thing I toured her exhibit.  What I recognized was her style.  Most of Maira Kalman’s art that I had seen was on many covers of The New Yorker magazine.  How prolific to write and illustrate children’s books, and also grace the covers of well known magazines.

There’s more.  Maira Kalman illustrated the book, The Elements of Style, co-authored by William Strunk and E.B. White.  This book is a classic for writers.  I was both impressed and surprised to learn that she did the illustrations.

Here’s where it gets even better.  Alongside every exhibit at the museum are the books by the author and illustrator.  Visitors can sit and read while admiring the art. Which is exactly what I did.  Thank goodness, as I discovered Fireboat, The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey.


Are you familiar with the John J. Harvey fireboat?  I wasn’t either.  It was launched in New York City in 1931, the same year Babe Ruth hit his 611th home run, and Snickers hit the candy stores.  The popular word Hot-Cha was invented.

The book opens with events and structures in New York City, such as the George Washington Bridge suspended over the Hudson River.


All the illustrations are beautiful.  The reader becomes part of the city in years gone by. Time passes.  We learn about the working parts of the fireboat and the crew.  The John J. Harvey helps to fight the fire on the ocean liner NORMANDIE.  Sometimes it goes out in the water just to celebrate, shoot water, and have fun.

By 1995 there were many fireboats, and the Harvey was set to be retired and sold for scrap. Of course the people who loved her rallied to save and buy the boat.  She was repaired and spent her days on the water, visiting other boats.  Did you know that four toots means hello?

Then something terrible happened at 8:45 AM on September 11, 2001.

The John J. Harvey wanted to help and get back to work.  We learn what each crew member was doing at the time, before they rushed to the fireboat.  No, she was too old to fight the fires, but she could help rescue people… and then at last she got “the call”, she was needed to supply water to the firefighters.  She was once again a real fireboat.


Can you see the many firefighters in this illustration?  That is one of the paintings at the exhibit.  A lump-in-your-throat painting.  The John J. Harvey was a hero.  The book shows the award she received, and a beautiful illustration of the harbor and the fireboat.  Among the last words are, “All that’s left to say is HOT-CHA and thank you.”

You can believe I will be reading this book to children.

Thank you to the Eric Carle Museum for another wonderful exhibition.  I learned much.  I am once again filled up.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in art, Book Review, books, children's books, Early Education, Eric Carle, Giving thanks, history, Inspiration, museums, picture books, reading, reading aloud, Teaching young children, The Arts and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

52 Responses to More at The Carle, the Art of Maira Kalman, and “Fireboat”

  1. beetleypete says:

    ‘Fireboat’ is going to be a massive hit with your Aqua Room kids, I just know it! 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. Ritu says:

    Beautiful illustrations!

  3. beth says:

    thank you so much for sharing these! as close as I can come to visiting these days

    • Jennie says:

      You are very welcome, Beth! I will keep sharing these museum visits. Many people can’t get there. BTW, this book was written in 2002 (I think) shortly after 9/11. I highly recommend you read it to you kindergarten class!! Every illustration is glorious, and the text is perfect. There’s a page that describes the parts of the boat and what the crew does, which is so cool. Something for everyone in this book. I only wish I had known it years ago.

  4. Fireboat looks familiar. I may have run across it before. Funny, I don’t remember my Strunk and White having illustrations . . .

    • Jennie says:

      Fireboat was new to me. I dearly wish I knew this book years ago. There was a copy of Strunk and White’s book in a glass case, with a sign that she had done the illustrations. I know what you mean, so there must have been few.

      • I have to ask. What kind of illustrations would accompany admonitions not to use passive voice?

      • Jennie says:

        I have no idea, Liz. It does make the mind wonder. I know the grandniece of E.B. White, and I will ask her if she has a copy of the book so I can see the illustrations. Inquiring minds want to know!

  5. Purely marvelous, Jennie. Hugs on the wing!

  6. Dan Antion says:

    That looks like a wonderful book. I might have to look for a copy.

    • Jennie says:

      Oh, it really, really is!! Here’s another reason you will like it: one page is dedicated to the parts of the boat and what they do, and another to the crew (real names and people). The history from 1931 forward is terrific. And of course how the Harvey handles 9/11 is something everyone needs to know. Every illustration is brilliant. Yes, you will love this book, Dan.

  7. Opher says:

    What a fabulous exhibition!

  8. I can tell that the museum is one of your favorite places, Jennie. And Maira Kalman’s illustrations are wonderfully vibrant. I love the ones that span two pages. 🙂 Thanks for sharing them!

    • Jennie says:

      Yes, it is one of my favorites because it is dedicated to the art of children’s books. And more importantly, it is well done! The book is fabulous. There are many illustrations that span two pages, and they’re all vibrant. I’m so glad you enjoyed this! Thank you, Diana.🙂

  9. What an experience! I had no idea that she had illustrated all of those different types of works.

  10. Shoes says:

    Beautiful! Thank you for sharing these with us. I think I will need to read Fireboat to my class too. Elements of Style is the first book I bought when I decided to start blogging so as to brush up on my writing skills.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Shoes! Please let me know how your class likes the book. I will do the same. I should read Elements of Style again. It’s been way too long. Best to you!

  11. Thank you for sharing with us, Jennie. Beautiful work.

  12. petespringerauthor says:

    What a great day at the museum! That is such a great idea to allow patrons to read the books while you’re looking at the art. I can’t remember many books that teach children about fireboats. Think of all of the kids who don’t live near the water who probably are unfamiliar with them.

    • Jennie says:

      It really was a great day! If the stack of books were not there alongside the exhibit, I might not have discovered this gem. Thank goodness books are always there for visitors to read at every exhibit. I learned more about fireboats than I ever knew. And I learned more about 1931 than I knew. I think even the kids who live near the water do not know about fireboats. The book’s theme of this real fireboat, with details of the parts and the crew, is a perfect way to tell a 9/11 story. You know I’m picky, and this book is a winner. I hope you pass this along to your fellow teachers. Thank you, Pete.

  13. This looks like an amazing book, Jennie. A story of courage and bravery.

  14. Norah says:

    What gorgeous artwork and a lovely book, all encapsulated in a fascinating story. Thank you, Jennie.

  15. What a fascinating ting! I never tire of museum. There are so many innovations and new concepts. And this one is so unique! Thanks very much for sharing Jennie. Best regards for your having an awesome new week! 🍃💕💐☀️

  16. This museum is wonderful. There is so much to explore, which i think would need months. Thank you for sharing, Jennie! Best wishes, Michael

  17. dgkaye says:

    Wow, fantastic. I detect this book being read to your class soon. Beautiful book. x 🙂

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