STARRED REVIEW
May 03, 2016

An old toy with a lot of spirit

By Randall de Sève, illustrated by Bob Staake
Review by

One of the singular joys of picture books is the way they can bring the abstract to literal life on the page. In A Fire Truck Named Red, young Rowan yearns for a top-of-the-line toy fire truck and is crushed when his grandfather gives him the cute but clunky one that had been Papa's childhood toy. As Papa restores the toy with a bit of new paint, he tells Rowan tales of the brave rescues he and Red made in their neighborhood, and slowly but surely wins Rowan over to the truck’s value.

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One of the singular joys of picture books is the way they can bring the abstract to literal life on the page. In A Fire Truck Named Red, young Rowan yearns for a top-of-the-line toy fire truck and is crushed when his grandfather gives him the cute but clunky one that had been Papa's childhood toy. As Papa restores the toy with a bit of new paint, he tells Rowan tales of the brave rescues he and Red made in their neighborhood, and slowly but surely wins Rowan over to the truck’s value.

Author Randall De Sève’s premise is commonplace in children’s stories, where stuffed animals need only to be loved well enough to become real. Artist Bob Staake merges these worlds brilliantly. The truck Rowan wants is flashy but indistinct, whereas Red may be small but looks ready to drive off the page. Papa’s stories show up as sepia-toned movies he’s showing to Rowan, then in one ingenious frame, Rowan is pulled directly into the world of the stories, his arm and one eye already in the scene while the rest of him trails a dotted line from where he was just standing.

Rowan and Papa are both boldly cartoonish in appearance; Red is photorealistic, even more real than they are. A Fire Truck Named Red highlights the value of less flashy items—they so often have the best stories attached. It’s a visual treat and tribute to the imagination.

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A Fire Truck Named Red

A Fire Truck Named Red

By Randall de Sève, illustrated by Bob Staake
FSG
ISBN 9780374300739

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