Hazelwood students publish firefighter book

July 2, 2014

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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By Christina Corrales-Toy TJ Spencer (second from left), author of the ‘Nozzlehead’ book series, signs books at Hazelwood Elementary School June 16. Spencer collaborated with a class of first-graders to pen a student-authored book, ‘Firefighter Nozzlehead What Firefighters Do.’

By Christina Corrales-Toy
TJ Spencer (second from left), author of the ‘Nozzlehead’ book series, signs books at Hazelwood Elementary School June 16. Spencer collaborated with a class of first-graders to pen a student-authored book, ‘Firefighter Nozzlehead What Firefighters Do.’

First-graders in Kristen Schutter’s class at Hazelwood Elementary School are experts when it comes to the duties of a firefighter.

They know that firefighters save people, educate schools about fire safety and use a vast array of tools to keep people safe. Firefighters also work closely with police officers, and yes, they do rescue the occasional kitten out of a tree.

The students poured all of that information and more into their new book, “Firefighter Nozzlehead What Firefighters Do.” At just 6 and 7 years old, the first-graders are published authors. They unveiled their picture book at a June 16 celebration.

“I just feel honored that I can do it with them,” Schutter said. “My name’s on it, but it wasn’t my work. I just facilitated them in doing it. They were the ones that put in the effort and the work.”

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.”

On the web

Buy the Hazelwood first-graders’ creation on Amazon at http://goo.gl/Nzu1z0, and learn more about the Nozzlehead book series at www.nozzlehead.net.

The books touch on themes such as teamwork, fellowship, wellness and community engagement, Spencer said.

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.

He worked with Schutter’s husband in the past, which led to the Hazelwood collaboration.

“He’s been kind of an extended part of our family, and it’s just been really fun to support him in this journey, and then to be able to have my kids learn alongside him,” Schutter said.

Each student created at least one page of the book, complete with illustrations and text. Spencer would visit the class to read some of his Nozzlehead books and help them come up with ideas.

The picture book looks and feels like any you’d see in a local library, which caught her students by surprise when they saw it for the first time, Schutter said. Most thought their teacher would just staple the pages together into a makeshift creation.

The first-graders read aloud their book in front of parents, Hazelwood staff and Renton School District Superintendent Merri Rieger on June 16. Spencer was there to introduce the new authors, and watch as they held the book in their hands for the first time.

“I remember my first book when that came out, and seeing them and hearing them and watching them, it’s as exciting as me seeing my first book,” Spencer said. “I really felt their excitement and I got to relive a little of mine.”

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