Nicky's Fire - Book Review

Nicky's Fire

Author: Richard Trotta Sr.
Genre: Young Adult - Coming of Age
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Date Published: March 11, 2020
ISBN-10: 168433456X
ISBN-13: 9781684334568

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Book Review of :  Nicky's Fire


 The contemporary photographic cover of the book Nicky’s Fireby Richard Trotta, Sr., is a great illustration and introduction to the excitement of this true-to-life, realistic young adult fiction. The young protagonist is Nicky Wright, a twelve-year-old middle schooler, who has an assignment to write a report on his father’s career.  At the time of the assignment, he harbored resentment for his father, Steve, because he was habitually too busy to attend any of Nicky’s school functions or his baseball games. Nicky came from a typical family with a workaholic father who was holding down two jobs to pay the bills. His mother was a stay-at-home mom who also resented her husband away so much.

The assignment to write about careers is met by different responses from his classmates. Some kids are ridiculed by others over the professions of their parents. They taunt a classmate whose father collects garbage, and another student brags that her father is a rich lawyer and knows all the important people in the city.  Even Nicky is embarrassed that his father is only a plumber and a fireman.

With the encouragement of his mom, Nicky’s father agrees to take him to work with him at the New York City fire station.  Here the story of father-son estrangement is addressed more as the two of them bond as Nick starts to feel the excitement and the importance of his father’s profession. There is an adrenalin-pumping series of events that reveal the true nature of firefighters. Nicky gets a glimpse of what it means to answer the call and run toward danger. He takes notes and photos on his phone to document his day with his dad. He rides on a ladder truck driven by his father and experiences training challenges at The Rock, the Fire Department Training Center. Here he learns fire safety techniques while experiencing dense smothering smoke and intense heat that firefighters must face in their job.

The author’s intimate knowledge of firefighting equipment, terminology, and firehouse routines are evident in his use of specialized vocabulary, the transmission of radio codes, and masterful explanations of the scientific phenomenon in terms easily understood. He clearly explains that fire “is a chemical reaction or change that releases heat and light and is accompanied by flame.”  He goes on to state that the four things fire needs are “oxygen, fuel, heat, and a self-sustaining chemical reaction,” therefore, if one element is taken away, the fire goes out. Nicky and readers will absorb safety lessons while enjoying the plot.

 A call is received for the firetruck to respond to a house fire. Black smoke pours from an upper window where Steve has entered from the ladder.  Flames crackle. Nicky’s heart is pounding as he overhears that his father is lost in the smoke and falling debris. The action is engaging, and the descriptions of the events create great visuals.

As the story approaches a rapid-fire conclusion, Nicky learns the difference between a job and a career. A career is doing what you love, and a job is doing something for a paycheck. He has learned a new respect for his father and is proud of him.

Nicky’s Fire is an excellent book for young boys and girls who fantasize about becoming firefighters - picturing themselves as the heroes who put out fires, save lives, and rescue stranded cats. The reader learns that to be a firefighter you need to be brave, selfless and willing to run toward danger instead of away from it. This book will give them an exciting, realistic view of the profession. It is deftly written by an author who lived the life. Moral lessons are subtle and aptly included.   

Reviewed by: Carole W

About Richard Trotta Sr.

Richard Trotta Sr. is a retired New York City firefighter spanning 28 years. He started in 1989 in Brooklyn and ended in 2017 in Staten Island. On 9/11 he arrived at Ground Zero after the second tower fell and spent months in the rescue and recovery effort.


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