Book giveaway – Linda Ashman returns to chat about FIRE CHIEF FRAN!

Note: Two things. First of all, thank you for hanging in with us, readers, while our site experienced technical difficulties that brought our emails to a screeching halt AND made it impossible for any of you to comment. PLEASE revisit recent posts, especially those featuring book giveaway contests you were unable to enter, like this one and this one (still open!). Also, just wanted to publicly thank Kim Norman for her time with PBB. Kim, we’ve so enjoyed having you as a blog mate and will miss you enormously!

Today, I am thrilled alum Linda Ashman could drop by to chat about her newest book, FIRE CHIEF FRAN (illus by Nancy Carpenter), published in October by Astra. This book has received rave reviews to the tune of FOUR stars, from SLJ, Kirkus, PW, and Booklist … and no wonder! The fast-paced rhyming text is energetic enough to keep kiddos enthralled from first page to last, and the bold, bright illustrations put them right in the middle of the action. What a fabulous read-aloud, for lap time AND groups!

Jill: Linda, I love this book’s day-in-the-life presentation. We witness various station chores of firefighters, like cleaning equipment, giving tours, and cooking for the crew, but then we also get to experience what happens when any of those things is interrupted by an emergency call. That “drop everything” feel comes through beautifully. Did you interview (or hang out with) firefighters to make this feel so realistic?  

Linda: Yes! But before interviewing anyone, I did lots of online research to learn more about firefighting in general—about the schedules firefighters work, the kinds of calls they receive, the different uniforms they wear, the types of training they do, truck colors, fire poles, etc. I learned so much (some of which ended up in the FAQs at the end). 

Typically fire chiefs have a more supervisory and administrative role, especially in large fire departments, so I set the story in a small town so Fran could be more involved in the action. Then I reached out to female fire chiefs in four small-to-midsize communities around the country. They were incredibly helpful and generous with their time, answering my many questions and, later, reviewing the text and art just before publication. And because they’re members of such an exclusive club—female firefighters make up less than ten percent of all firefighters, and women in leadership positions are even more rare—they were really enthusiastic about a picture book featuring a female fire chief.

Art ©Nancy Carpenter 2022

Jill: I live in an area that requires reliance on volunteer firefighters, so I appreciate that you’ve captured a firefighter’s deep sense of commitment to their community. Might you have other stories in mind to showcase community helpers?

Linda: I’m always hesitant to talk about story ideas before they’re fully hatched (lest the publishing gods smite me!). So let’s just say I’ve submitted a proposal for a story featuring a woman in a similarly non-traditional role, with lots of potential for action, repetition and sound effects! 

Jill: Of course I understand … and now I’m intrigued. Let’s talk rhyme. Yours is flawless, despite the fact that you’ve incorporated plenty of incredible sound effects. Such a lively and FUN read-aloud! Let’s talk about the writing:  Do you recall which sections were particularly tough to work out?

Linda: Thanks, Jill! My original mission was to write a lively read-aloud, so I appreciate that—especially coming from you. It’s always interesting to look back at early drafts and see how little they look like the final manuscript (and how convoluted and nonsensical they are, at least in my case). I struggled with the refrain for a long time. I played around with a lot of versions, finally settled on one, then tweaked it again after the manuscript was acquired. 

At some point after acquisition, my editor asked me to include a wildfire in the story given their increasing prevalence, particularly in the west. This made sense, but also was a bit tricky, as it meant adding another emergency, another “back at the station” episode and another refrain. 

Art ©Nancy Carpenter 2022

Jill: I’m surprised. That scene fits in so seamlessly! Kids won’t be able to look away from Nancy Carpenter’s bright, captivating art. She absolutely grabs a reader, alternating intimate close-up POVs with occasional longer viewpoints. That somehow makes this little book feel … well, BIGGER. What a gift.

Linda: Nancy is SO talented. Many years ago, she illustrated a book of poems I’d written (M is for Mischief), but we’d never met. I finally got to meet her in person (sort of) when we did a virtual bookstore visit together recently. It was so interesting to hear about her process and see some of her visual inspiration—photos of women firefighters, various color schemes, the toy fire truck she used as a model. She also visited her local fire station and talked to some firefighters there as well. 

Art ©Nancy Carpenter 2022

One thing Nancy said during the bookstore event really stuck with me. Even after so many years and so many books, every new project feels like starting from scratch in terms of her style and approach. Maybe that’s why each of her books feels so distinctive. I just love The Great Stink, for example, which is so fun and detailed and fascinating. Compare that to, say, A Letter to My Teacher and 17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore. All different, all incredible, all Nancy.

Jill: Yes, it isn’t always easy to look at a book and think “Aha! Nancy Carpenter did that.” Talk about versatility! What can we look forward to, next, from you, Linda?

Linda: In February I have a book coming out about my favorite animal. Wonder Dogs!, illustrated by Karen Obuhanych (Simon & Schuster), is narrated by a small rescue mutt who admires the many skills of the dogs he sees around him (agility, search and rescue, inspecting, assisting, etc.), then considers his own “talents” (scaring squirrels, cleaning up spills, greeting guests and—most of all—providing love). Then in June, I’ve got a poetry collection coming out, my first in many years. Champion Chompers, Super Stinkers and Other Poems by Extraordinary Animals, illustrated by Aparna Varma (Kids Can Press), is a collection of mask poems designed as a guessing game. Kids can read the poem, get a small glimpse of the animal in the illustration, then turn the page to see who it is. Both very fun projects to work on.

Jill: THANK YOU, friend! And readers, you’ll be happy to know that Linda is returning to guest post in February and June to introduce those upcoming books.

GIVEAWAY! For your chance to win a copy of FIRE CHIEF FRAN, simply leave a comment below.

Linda Ashman is the author of more than 45 picture books and The Nuts & Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books. Her books have been included on the ‘best of the year’ lists of The New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, the Children’s Book Council, Bank Street College of Education and The New York Public Library, among others, and have been translated into many languages. Linda’s latest book, Fire Chief Fran, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter (Astra), received starred reviews from Publishers WeeklySchool Library JournalKirkus and Booklist, which called it “informative, engaging and uncommonly inspiring.” Linda and her husband Jack Hicks live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. During baseball season they can be found cheering on their son Jackson, a minor league pitcher. For more information, visit

Jill Esbaum

Jill Esbaum has been picture book crazy since her 3 kids were little, and especially so after her first was published in 2004 (Stink Soup). Recent titles: Jack Knight's Brave Flight, Where'd My Jo Go?, Frog Boots, How to Grow a Dinosaur, Frankenbunny, If a T. Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party, Elwood Bigfoot– Wanted: Birdie Friends!, Teeny Tiny Toady, I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo!, and more. Coming in May of 2023: Stinkbird Has a Superpower. She's also the author of many nonfiction books for young readers, as well as an early graphic reader series, Thunder & Cluck. Learn more at


  1. Studying the sample spreads feels like a tutorial on how to write the perfect rhyming book! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks for the great interview! I can tell that this is a book kids will love!

  3. There is so much action in the text and in the illustrations. This is going to be fun to read out loud.

  4. Great interview, Jill! Love that this is about a female firefighter (I have a cousin who is a firefighter and runs the ladder company out of her station). Can’t wait to add this to my collection! Congratulations to Linda and Nancy!!

  5. Terrific interview. Sounds like a fabulous book. Adding it to my holiday gift list for some grand nieces and nephews. 🙂

  6. Really looking forward to this one. Little girls need to see all the possibilities in their futures.

  7. I can not wait to get to read this to some children.

  8. Great interview. I enjoyed hearing about the process. Kids are going to love reading about a female firefighter.

  9. Great interview, you two! Can’t wait to read this book.

  10. Yeah for a female firefighter!

  11. Looks terrific! Can’t wait to read it!

    Congratulations, Linda!

  12. This is on my TBR list now. I’m sure I’ll writing a Goodreads review soon.

  13. I look forward to reading this book to the students at my school. They will love it!

  14. Going to get this for my grandnieces! Really love this topic. Thank you for honoring firefighters.

  15. I can’t wait for this book to hit the shelf! It will be a must read for fire safety week.

  16. Put it on hold at the library! Looks great.

  17. The sights, the sounds, the stories – this book has it ALL!
    Congrats Linda!

  18. Linda is one of the top talents at rhyming books…what a timely and terrific topic to apply her talents towards!

  19. How fun…thanks for sharing! And glad you are back!

  20. Jilanne F Hoffmann

    Rhymes and refrains can be tough. I admire a book when the author makes them work. Congrats, Linda!

  21. Love all of Linda’s books. Can’t wait to read this one

  22. I’m always impressed by Linda’s rhyming skills. And the art looks incredible! Thanks for sharing this book with us!

  23. Glad to see you online again. Please include me in the giveaway.

  24. Yay! A comment box! I wondered what had happened.

    Linda, this book looks wonderful! I was at my husband’s fire department graduation night and noticed a definite lack of females, so this book will be much appreciated! Congrats! And wildfires are a huge thing! Glad it was added.

  25. Linda, I’ve long been an admirer of your books. I refer to your “Nuts and Bolts” all the time! I look forward to your upcoming posts on the PBB blog!!

  26. This looks fabulous! I can’t wait to get a copy to share with my school’s prekindergarten and Head Start students. Between the rhyming text to support their phonological awareness skills and the representation of a female firefighter, this will be a perfect readaloud for their community unit.

  27. This will make a great addition to our shelf in the library!

  28. This will make a great addition to our shelf in the library!

  29. Alicia Macasaet Minor

    children can really relate to this story especially if their dads are firefighters. Great story idea! Congrats!

  30. Congratulations! FIRE CHIEF FRAN is on my list to check out!

  31. So lovely to see Linda back at PBB–at least for this post.

    Also, glad to know she’s on fire in 2023 with two upcoming books. 🙂

  32. I love the illustrations and the rhyming text. This will be a favorite for many kids.

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