Magnus at the Fire

Grade Level: 
K, 1, 2
Character Education: Responsibility
Civil Society
Emergency Response
A guide for parents, teachers, and group leaders to accompany the reading of this picture book. The guide below provides before, during, and after-reading discussion questions. Choose from activities and discussion questions to build children's understanding of generosity, community, and service to others.

Reading Level: Ages 4-8

This story about a brave fire horse was inspired by true events. When the Hope Springs Fire Department acquires a new, motorized fire engine, the horses that used to pull the fire equipment are put out to pasture. But big Magnus still answers the call of the fire alarm. Can courage and dedication to a job sometimes be a nuisance? Kids will cheer Magnus on as he keeps jumping the fence and running to the fire. Will he be in the way or will he save the day? This glimpse into history, with the animals who used to be a big part of our work force, will set fire to your kids’ imaginations.

Before Reading

ASK: Do you know of any animals that help people do dangerous or difficult jobs?

SHOW: Look at the pictures to see what fire horses were trained to do in the past.

CONNECT: Have you ever seen a rescue dog, or seen a horse pulling a heavy load? What other jobs do animals do?.

During Reading

ASK: Could any horse do this job? Do horses come in different sizes?

SHOW: Look at the pictures of Magnus jumping the fence. Talk about how smart animals can be when they are trained to do a job.

CONNECT: Have you ever seen animals react to fire? What would it take to get an animal to get close to a fire?

After Reading

ASK: Do you think Magnus is happy living on the farm?

SHOW: Look at the pictures of Magnus at his last fire. Do you think they should keep him at the firehouse in case this happens again?

CONNECT: What other things did horses used to do in the past that we have machines for now? Do you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing to have machines replace animal helpers?


  1. Where are the fire stations near your house? Do firefighters live there or do you have a volunteer fire department? What would you do if you saw a fire? Draw a map of your house showing the fire escape routes. Ask your family to have a fire drill at home.
  2. The hero in this book is called Magnus. Do you think that name might have a meaning? Look in a dictionary for “magnify” and “magnitude.” Does that tell you anything about Magnus’ name? What would be some other good names for a fire horse?
  3. Look at pictures of animals that are built for speed (cheetah, jackrabbit, greyhound) and pictures of animals that are built for strength (elephant, oxen, draft horse). What do the fast animals have in common? What do the strong animals have in common? What are some of the differences between fast animals and strong animals?
  4. Before motorized vehicles (cars and trucks) cities and towns were full of horses. How would things be different with horses instead of cars and trucks? Would the streets be quieter or noisier? Would the streets be more crowded or less crowded? Would the environment be dirtier or cleaner? Look around your town and try to imagine it with horses instead of motorized vehicles. Draw a picture of what it would look like.
  5. Fire horses had to learn to overcome their natural fear of fire. Name something you were afraid of at first, but learned to do. Is there something else you are afraid of that you might try?
  6. Magnus went to live on an apple farm. What would be another good place for a horse to live, and why? Are there any organizations that take care of retired horses now? Find out if there is a place somewhere near you where retired horses live, and if you can visit it. Be sure to take some carrots!