Dianne Ochiltree has agreed to participate in our Holiday Book Giveaway Extravaganza with one of my favorite picture books MOLLY, BY GOLLY.
All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back to discover the winner.
This legendary tale introduces young readers to Molly Williams, an African American cook for New York City’s Fire Company 11, who is considered to be the first known female firefighter in U.S. history. One winter day in 1818, when many of the firefighting volunteers are sick with influenza and a small wooden house is ablaze, Molly jumps into action and helps stop the blaze, proudly earning the nickname Volunteer Number 11. Relying on historic records and pictures and working closely with firefighting experts, Dianne Ochiltree and artist Kathleen Kemly not only bring this spunky and little-known heroine to life but also show how fires were fought in early America. Read more on Amazon.
As a writer, I’m always looking for a good idea for “the next book”. However, some of my best book ideas have come looking for me. That’s what happened with my picture book, MOLLY BY GOLLY! The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter.
I’d just started research for a different picture book, a story taking place during the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. Because the disaster had set many parts of the city ablaze, I needed to know about historical firefighting methods. While digging into a stack of reference books on the topic, I found, on page 42 of Dennis Smith’s History of Firefighting in America: 300 Years of Courage, my new heroine and work-in-progress:
“While ‘running with volunteers’ is remembered as strictly a male avocation, there were a few highly colorful female exceptions. One was Molly Williams. She took her work seriously and was proud to be ‘as good a fire laddie as many of the boys who bragged at being such.’ She is best remembered for the night a fire broke out during a blizzard in 1818. Only a few volunteers were able to get through to answer the alarm, so Molly took hold of the drag-rope with them and began to pull on it ‘for dear life’, struggling to draw the pumper through the virtually impassable snow.”
The drama inherent in her story, and the heroic character reflected by her actions, captivated me immediately. Add in the fact that firefighters ‘run’ in our family, including an aunt who’d been the first woman to work with our township fire department as an EMT in the early 1970’s, and I was hooked! The earthquake manuscript was set aside, and I set out to tell the story of a spunky, strong woman who was not afraid to jump into action when her neighbors needed help.
Flipping to the bibliography page, I noted other firefighting books that might give me more information or sources. I googled websites, contacted fire museums and firefighting organizations, searching for details about Molly’s adventure. I checked databases to find out if there had ever been a children’s book published about Molly Williams. The answer was no.
I’d also discovered that few picture books had ever been published on historical firefighting techniques and tools. Another plus—Molly’s legend could also help kids understand how fires were fought in early America.
My friendly, neighborhood research librarian helped track down hard-to-find documents and books. Trips to fire museums gave me a real sense of the size and weight of the picks, axes, and pumper engine Molly would have to handle.
I also sought the advice of firefighting experts to help me tell the story with as much technical accuracy as possible. Two such experts generously gave me their time, expertise and knowledge: David Lewis, Curator, Aurora Regional Fire Museum, Aurora, Illinois; and Damon Campagna, director and curator of the New York City Fire Museum. These patient souls answered my many questions about firefighting tools, machines, methods, and protective gear that would have been common in Molly’s day.
Dianne Ochiltree is a nationally recognized author of books for the very young. Her books have appeared on numerous recommended reading lists, classroom desks and library shelves. Her bedtime book, LULL-A-BYE, LITTLE ONE, was a selected for the Dollywood Foundation’s childhood literacy initiative, Imagination Library in 2007. Her picture book, MOLLY BY GOLLY! THE LEGEND OF MOLLY WILLIAMS AMERICA’S FIRST FEMALE FIREFIGHTER, received the Florida Book Awards (FBA) Bronze Medal in the Children’s Literature category in 2012 and was chosen for the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer list of feminist literature for girls. Her picture book, IT’S A FIREFLY NIGHT, won the FBA Silver Medal in 2013. Her 2015 title, IT’S A SEASHELL DAY, was given the FBA Gold Medal/Gwen Reichert Award as well as the Gold Medal for Florida picture book from the Florida Authors and Publishers Association. For more information about Dianne’s books, go to http://www.dianneochiltree.com.
The wonderful illustrator of this book, Kathleen Kemly was featured on Illustrator Saturday. Here is the link. You can see her process for creating the artwork that makes this book come alive. https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/04/07/illustrator-saturday-kathleen-kemly/
Dianne, thanks for sharing your book and journey with us. Have a happy holiday.