by Gladys Elizabeth Barbieri & Lina Safar, illustrator
translated by Liliana Cosentino
Big Tent Books 5/22/2013
Age 4 to 8 34 pages
“Spirited Gladys is at it again. It’s CAREER DAY at school and Gladys Elizabeth boldly announces that she is going to be a firegirl. After a classmate tells her that girls can’t fight fires, Gladys Elizabeth proves that she can be whatever she wants to be!”
“Excitement is buzzing in the air of the auditorium. / El auditorio bulle de entusiasmo.”
After a Career Day program, Gladys Elizabeth’s class draws what they would like to be when they grow up. Gladys draws a pink fire engine that classmate Rudy strongly objects to say loudly, “Gladys, you can’t be a fireman! Get it? Fireman, not firegirl.” He then tells Gladys to stick to a girl job. During recess, the question of girls doing “men’s” jobs continues dividing the girls and boys. One girl states she is going to be the first female President of the United States, effectively quieting the boys.
A few days later, the class takes a trip to a fire station. There is a female captain who corrects Gladys when she calls her a fireman. The correct term is now firefighter. Gladys stares at Rudy as if to say, “See, I can to be a firefighter.” Rudy is still not convinced, especially when Gladys asks a firefighter if a fire engine could be pink. Once at home, Gladys sports her paramedic outfit, a fire helmet, and a paramedics kit—all pink. There is a crash and Gladys runs outside to help. The noise is Rudy. He has fallen off his bike and Gladys tends to his wounds. Gladys’s help and sense of confidentiality change Rudy’s mind about girl firefighters. End of story.
Pink Fire Trucks is a positive statement to little girls that they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up. Writing in both English and Spanish, the author makes the story accessible to many more kids. I commend the author for writing a bilingual picture book. There are a few problems. For one, there is a lot of text, much more than a traditional picture book. Rewriting the test in Spanish then doubles the word count. I believe a good editor would have suggested the author remove unneeded words to tighten the story. Secondly, Gladys Elizabeth, the writer, should think hard about Gladys Elizabeth, the main character. I am of the opinion that naming a character after yourself, especially the main character, is narcissistic and generally bad idea.
The illustrations are really good, very colorful, nicely detailed, and lots of fun. Though in one, Gladys turns to look at Rudy and “silently gloat.” The illustration shows Rudy standing behind Gladys with both of them looking forward. A dotted line winds from Gladys’s chin, up to the top of her head, and then down the back of her head. From there, two arrows, attached to the dotted line, point at Rudy, who doesn’t seem the bit distracted by them. Without the text, I would have had no idea what the illustrator was trying to say. The text says, “I slowly turn and look back at Rudy and “silently gloat(ed).” A picture book should be readable by text and by picture. Without the text, the illustrations make no sense. Drawing Gladys and Rudy facing each other would have been understandable.
Pink Fire Trucks did not excite me. It takes a lot of work to read and I think many kids will be bored before the end arrives, especially if both languages are read. Here is a sample from “Career Day.”
“All sorts of people come to talk about their careers: an attorney, a carpenter, a yoga instructor, and a carpenter, just to mention a few. Even Millie’s dad comes. But instead of talking about being a painter, Mr. Vazquez rambles on and on about other things.
“En fin, always use primer before you paint, warm up your car in the morning for at least ten minutes, and always keep a spare key in your wallet, just in case.”
“Not understanding what Mr. Vazquez is talking about, we laugh . . .” (narrator Gladys Elizabeth)
The text, in both languages, required sometimes more than 50 percent of the page, leaving the illustrations little room. On some pages, the text tightly winds around the images. The biggest problem is the excessive text and illustrations that never caught my eye. The text is not more important than the illustrations, nor are the illustrations more important than the text. They both have a story to tell—the same story—and each deserve adequate space to tell it. When this does not happen, reading the book may become an exercise in frustration and the child listening may not stay focused. A tight story is a great story.
Not everyone will say this, but the job of reviewer is not always kind. I’m sure it is hard on the author to read someone does not like his or her story. It is hard for the reviewer to write they did not like a book. Many reviewers simply won’t write a negative review. I think the author deserves to know, though it is but one opinion and may not be as correct as the reviewer believes it to be. I do not accept a book unless I think I will enjoy it. Therefore, it is a huge disappointment when I do not.
Pink Fire Trucks has a great premise. The story will draw girls in, and it is empowering. Gladys Elizabeth Barbieri can write and write well. She knows how to construct a story. With a good editor, the author could be writing magnificent children’s books, especially those that are bilingual. I expect there will be much more from this former teacher. Good writers learn from others–including reviewers, take what they need from them, and grow into better writers. Ms. Barbieri, I am sure, will experience much growth and her writing will improve with time and practice.Maybe in her next story Rudy will get a chance to shine.
PINK FIRE TRUCKS – LOS CAMIONES DE BOMBEROS DE COLOR ROSADO. Text copyright © 2013 by Gladys Elizabeth Barbieri. Translation copyright © 2013 by Liliana Cosentino. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Lina Safar. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Big Tent Books, Savannah, GA.
Learn more about Pink Fire Trucks . . . HERE.
Also by Gladys Elizabeth Barbieri
.Also by Lina Safar
The Forgotten Ornament .