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New York’s Bravest

By: Mary Pope Osborne
illustrated by: Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher
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In the 1840s, there was a real volunteer firefighter named Mose Humphreys whose bravery was reknown throughout New York City. Plays about him began being performed on Broadway in 1848 and over the years his strength and heroics took on larger-than-life proportions, much like those of Paul Bunyan. Mary Pope Osborne has honed down the legends about him to a brief, dramatic, sometimes comical, but ultimately moving text of picture book length. Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher’s stunning paintings capture this 8-foot-tall superhero rushing into burning buildings, saving babies and bankers, and wolfing down the feasts bestowed upon him by the grateful citizens of old New York–until the one big hotel fire after which he was never seen again. The author has included a historical note about the origins of this tall tale, and the book is dedicated to the 343 New York City firefighters who gave their lives to save others on September 11, 2001.

Mary Pope Osborne included a longer, different version of this legend in her distinguished collection American Tall Tales.