Apollo students pen book about the ABCs of firefighters

June 24, 2014

By Christina Corrales-Toy

Kittens, ladders, sirens and zombies — yes, zombies — all have something in common. They each make an appearance in the Apollo Elementary School student-penned book “Firefighter Nozzlehead Letter by Letter.”

At just 7 and 8 years old, Jamie Burcheci’s second-grade students are now published authors. They unveiled at a June 17 celebration their picture book about what firefighters do.

By Christina Corrales-Toy Jamie Burcheci and her second-grade students celebrate their new published book, ‘Firefighter Nozzlehead Letter by Letter.’

By Christina Corrales-Toy
Jamie Burcheci and her second-grade students celebrate their new published book, ‘Firefighter Nozzlehead Letter by Letter.’

Firefighters use ladders to save kittens, sound the siren when someone is in trouble and even take down zombies with water hoses, according to the book.

“We had to get creative with the letter Z,” Burcheci said. “In the end, we thought why don’t we end it on a funny note with a zombie, and how firefighters, among their many other important duties, can protect us from the zombies, too.”

The publication is a joint effort between the students and TJ Spencer, author of the Nozzlehead book series. Spencer created the Nozzlehead character in 1999 as a way to show the public, especially children, a firefighter’s daily responsibilities.

Nozzlehead’s friendly, passionate demeanor is meant to make kids comfortable around firefighters, Spencer said.

“The idea was to create a character that the kids could relate to, and our big key factor is the masks,” he said. “One of the things that scare the kids the most is the masks. Nozzlehead shows them there’s nothing to be afraid of.”

When Spencer isn’t writing, he’s known as Eastside Fire & Rescue firefighter Tim Castner, where he works out of station 78 in Renton. He uses TJ Spencer as a pen name in honor of his grandmother, Elizabeth Spencer Moquin.

The collaboration with Burcheci’s class came naturally, Spencer said, given that station 78 handles Apollo’s fire drills.

The original intent was to craft an A-Z compilation of firefighter duties, but someone already beat them to that idea, Spencer said, so they settled on the “letter by letter” concept.

Each student created at least one page of the book, complete with illustrations and text. Spencer would visit the class to help them come up with ideas and model his uniform for the budding artists.

“The whole process was very exciting,” Burcheci said. “I always stress the importance of writing in the classroom and we’ve gone through the process of editing, rough drafts and the publishing part, but this, actually getting to publish a real book, was a great opportunity for the kids.”

The second-graders read aloud their book in front of parents and Apollo staff June 17. Spencer was there to introduce the new authors, and watch as they held the book in their hands for the first time.

None of it would have been possible without the class teacher, Burcheci, a nine-year veteran of the Apollo staff, Spencer said. Burcheci was crucial in spotting proofreading errors and keeping the project organized.

“These kids are really important to her and it is evident in everything she does,” he said. “She was just an immense amount of help in the project.”


On the web

Buy the Apollo second-graders’ creation on Amazon at http://goo.gl/HTR2OA, and learn more about the Nozzlehead book series at www.nozzlehead.net.

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