When my son, now eight, was a preschooler, we went through the Fire Truck Period, in which we read every fire truck book known to man. He spent lots of time making his own siren sound effects, which were sometimes so convincing that I had to reassure others that nothing was amiss.
Now my twin girls, approaching age three, are ready to get into the act. Although they're certainly not the fire truck aficionados that my son was, they proved to be an appreciative audience for Dot the Fire Dog, no doubt because Dot, a lively Dalmatian, is the star. This trusty fire dog does all the usual stuff that firehouse dogs do - dons a helmet, rides in the fire truck, helps rescue an old man and a kitten from a burning house. Yet the subject never seems to lose its appeal.
Award-winning artist Lisa Desimini adds a modern touch by including female firefighters, as well as firefighters of various races. And with these heroes in the news so much since the September tragedies, her book provides a calm yet realistic explanation for preschoolers of what these folks do. The tale starts with a sleeping Dot and a brief tour of the firehouse, where the firefighters are relaxing. Then, of course, a call comes, and out everyone rushes. This is an adventure for the younger rather than the older crowd, as the plot is quite spare. Yet kids will be interested in the detailed illustrations, which show the firemen's breathing apparatus and the instrument used to break windows. "Dot's Fire Safety Tips" at the end are also a useful addition for children of all ages.
Desimini's oil illustrations are realistic, with odd yet interesting perspectives reminiscent of primitive folk art. Naturally, Dot is the most lively character in the book; the doll-like humans have few expressions. But Desimini has succeeded in making the subject approachable for preschoolers and after all, Dot, not the folks at the fire station, is the book's focus.
Dot the Fire Dog was probably the first book about firefighters that my girls have read, and it was a straightforward, pleasant introduction, one they've asked for again.
Alice Cary writes from Massachusetts. Copyright 2002 BookPage Reviews
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2002 Spring
This is a bold, engaging outlet for preschoolers' perennial fascination with firefighters. Dalmatian Dot plays a central role in the firehouse and on an emergency call where the company successfully rescues an old man and his cat and puts out the fire. Throughout the story, both text and art highlight the details of greatest interest to children. The final page offers fire safety tips for adults and children to talk about together. Copyright 2002 Horn Book Guide Reviews
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2001 #6
Desimini provides a bold, engaging outlet for preschoolers' perennial fascination with firefighters. Adorable dalmatian Dot plays a central role in the firehouse and on an emergency call. When the alarm bell rings, everyone rushes to pull on their gear-"Don't forget your helmets. You, too, Dot." Together they race off to a burning house, where they successfully rescue an old man and his cat and put out the fire. Throughout the story, both text and art highlight the details of greatest interest to children. As Dot sleeps by the firefighters' big rubber boots-her black-on-white form luxuriously stretched across a rich, red floor-the "black jackets with yellow stripes hang on hooks next to their helmets while the big red fire truck waits downstairs." The large pictures glow with these yellows and reds throughout but are enhanced by an ample spectrum of other colors, too, from the purple shutters and door on the old man's house to the turquoise green steps inside. The story offers a small swell of excitement-"Oh, no! Dot hears a kitten. It must be trapped inside"-but is never frightening. The simple, declarative sentences and the calm expressions in the illustrations assure listeners that Dot and her friends have everything well in hand. The rich paintings will reward adult readers as they comply with repeated requests for this likely hit; the final page offers "Dot's Fire Safety Tips" for adults and children to talk about together. Copyright 2001 Horn Book Magazine Reviews
Kirkus Reviews 2001 September #1
A usually venturesome artist tries for a younger audience, with cutesy, sticky-sweet results. When the alarm goes off, Dot the firehouse dog dons a helmet and races with her firefighting crew to a burning house. While the firefighters tackle the rather tidy blaze and rescue an old resident, Dot carries out his slippers, then goes back to bring out a kitten, earning a lick on the nose (from the kitten) once the fire is out. The pictures are reduced to essentials, with large, simple, static forms, sharply divided areas of saturated, more or less evenly applied colors, and minimal shading. A page of fire safety tips, some of which seem to be addressed more to adults, is appended. The big red fire engine will please post-toddlers (and the varied skin tones of its crew's men and women, their parents), but next to Chris L. Demarest's Firefighters A to Z (2000) or Gail Gibbons' classic Fire! Fire! (1984), there's not much here but empty calories. Reserved for that reader who wants anything at all about firefighters. (Picture book. 3-5) Copyright Kirkus 2001 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2001 October #3
Desimini's (Sun & Moon) day in the life of a firehouse dog seems uncharacteristically dull. The events themselves offer drama firefighters rescue a man in a burning house while Dot rescues the man's kitten but the matter-of-fact text and the static oil paintings are so low-key that they do not convey the excitement inherent in the plot. Devoid of dialogue or imagery, the narrative is occasionally interrupted by directives to the characters: "They pull on their big rubber boots and put on their pants and their jackets. Don't forget your helmets. You, too, Dot." But whether they are running, eating a bowl of soup or sliding down the firehouse pole, the multicultural men and women of the firehouse seem frozen in space. Their faces remain grim whether they are putting out the fire or playing checkers. The fire safety tips at the book's conclusion may be useful for fire safety lessons but, despite the cheery Dalmatian-spotted endpapers, this is a rather antiseptic view of these everyday heroes at work. Ages 3-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2001 December
PreS-Gr 2-A simple story on a perennially popular topic. The circular tale begins and ends in the firehouse, a surprisingly cozy spot where Dot "sleeps by the firefighters' big rubber boots." Called away from their leisure activities, the dalmatian and her colleagues suit up to answer an alarm. When they reach a burning house, one firefighter rescues a sleeping man while Dot finds and carries out a tiny kitten. The fire is eventually put out and, their work done, the firefighters return to the firehouse. A short list of fire-safety tips appears on the final page. Desimini's bright colors and uncluttered compositions perfectly suit the straightforward style of her text. Whether picturing the firehouse, the city streets, or the burning house, the paintings offer quirky perspectives and unusual angles. The artist includes both genders and a variety of races on her fire-fighting team, but of course the real star is Dot, the fire dog.-Lisa Dennis, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, PA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.