The Fire Cat

Fire Cat by Esther Averill is a Level 1 Beginning Reader in the HarperCollins “I Can Read” series. It was first published in 1960. The fire cat’s name is Pickles. 

Pickles wants to do something big, but there is nothing big to do in the old yard where he lives, so he chases other cats. As a result, he has no cat friends. Mrs. Goodkind, who lives in the house by the yard, doesn’t believe he is a bad cat. He is a cat who needs a good home. She takes him in, gives him toys, and lets him sit in her pretty chair. But Pickles would rather go back to his barrel and chase other cats. 

One day, Pickles chases a cat up a tree, and he ends up not being able to climb down.

“Sometimes this happens to a cat.”

Eventually, Mrs. Goodkind calls the fire department to come and rescue him. The fireman sees how big Pickles’s paws are, and thinks Pickles will someday do big things. He takes Pickles to live in the firehouse. 

The Chief says he will let Pickles live in the firehouse if he will learn to be a good firehouse cat. Pickles learns to slide down the pole, jump up on the big truck, sit up straight on the seat while the truck races to the fire, and help hold the big hose. The Chief makes him an official Fire Cat, but Pickles still has to learn to be kind to other cats. 

Then, one day, he has the chance to do something big. 

There are some pages in this book that are all text, but they are faced with a full-page illustration. Though some of the vocabulary may look difficult at first, most of the long words are compounds of words familiar to beginning readers such as “Goodkind,” “someday,” and “firehouse.” 

The book is divided into three chapters. It is not intended to be read in one sitting. As I’ve said before, a method I use with readers who are intimidated by pages full of text, is to share the reading. You can take turns reading a sentence each, or alternating by paragraph. 

When you come to words like “climbed,” “straight,” or “thought,” you may point out that when English first began to be written, all the letters were pronounced. Trying to pronounce each letter as it might have sounded hundreds of years ago may help your reader remember the word next time.  

What I didn’t know when I first encountered this book, is that Pickles is a character from Averill’s series of stories about the cat, Jenny Linsky. The first in that series is The Cat Club. The books in this series are chapter books for readers who are a little more advanced. 

How fun!

Fire Cat is available at

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