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Goliath: Hero of the Great Baltimore Fire Review by Wendy Jung

Claudia Friddell
Sleeping Bear Press
315 E. Eisenhower Parkway, Suite 200
Ann Arbor, MI 48108

Goliath: Hero of the Great Baltimore Fire is wonderfully written account of a 1904 fire that nearly destroyed the city of Baltimore, Maryland. Claudia Friddell teaches us about this historical event through the story of Goliath, the giant Percheron fire horse of Engine Company 15. Goliath's heroic actions during the fire, which started in a warehouse and went on to destroy over 2,500 buildings, caused him great physical injury but also made him the most beloved animal in Baltimore.

This book is gorgeous in many ways. The story is very well told, with lots of historical details helping give a wonderful picture of life in 1904 as well as the lives of firemen and firehouses during this time period. Then there is Goliath. Friddell's words make us really understand how huge and powerful Goliath was. Added to the story are beautiful, intricate illustrations by Troy Howell. A few actual photographs of Goliath, an informative and happy Afterword and glossary of Fire Terms round out a great book. There is also a free 23-page Teachers Guide available for download at the Sleeping Bear Press website.

I read this book for two animal-loving little girls and one fireman-loving boy. They were all equally enthralled, and we had more than the usual cries of "I can't see!" as they crowded around me while we read on the couch. The illustrations are top notch, contain many clever details, and are done from a variety of angles. Needless to say, they required lots of close and careful looking.

The horse gals enjoyed learning about how Goliath could sense a fire had started before the fire house bell sounded and how he was trained to act during a fire. They were also very concerned when Goliath was badly burned while doing his job. Thankfully, the story doesn't end there (don't want to give too much away).

The fireman boy was fascinated by the inner workings of an old firehouse and the equipment used there. Honestly, I was amazed by some of this too! Who knew they had all of the horses' harnesses hanging above the stalls on springs ready to drop into place at a moment's notice?

History is one of my favorite things. Books such as Goliath: Hero of the Great Baltimore Fire allows me to share this love of all things historical with my children in a way that causes them to love it also. For what it's worth, I've been asked to read this book several more times after the initial reading.

Product review by Wendy Jung, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August 2010