The Little Red Engine

By Diana Ross and Lewitt-Him, 1942

The Little Red Engine was known only as number 394. Unlike the big black engine, "Pride o' the North" and the big green engine "Beauty of the South," 394 never went anywhere. Worse still, he had to listen to the constant boasting from the bigger engines.


But one day there was an awful storm and a tree blew down and "Beauty" went crashing into it then "Pride" somehow derailed or something then suddenly there was this king and he needed to get back home immediately for important matters of state and there was only one little train who could get the job done and . . .  oh, who cares about plot . . . can we just admire the gorgeous gouaches from the team of Lewitt and Him?

Throughout, the Little Red Engine repeats affirmations: "I can do it! I really can." And, "I'm sure I can!" These sound a lot less wishy-washy than that "I think I can!" business spouted by Watty Piper's Little Engine a few years earlier.  ("I'm sure I can avoid litigation this way," thought Diana Ross.)

The Little Red Engine saves the day and is given the name, Royal Red. Now when the two bigger engines boast and brag, the little engine, by royal decree, can tell them, "Up yours."

But he doesn't. This is a kid's book.

WHAT DID WE LEARN? In picture books, the train with the cutest face always wins.

A Drop of Blood

By Paul Showers and Don Madden, 1967

Lisa Brown is back with another curious recommendation:

Guest Reviewer: LISA BROWN

I have no idea where this book came from, but I am in love.

Don Madden illustrated about a gazillion other books, including tons about mathematics and my new favorite, Gravity is a Mystery. Paul Showers, who has a fantastic name, wrote 20 more books for the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out series.

 A Drop of Blood was re-published like this, presumably to catch a ride on the vampire popularity wave.

In the first scene, our hero cuts his finger, apparently whittling. His dog is intrigued. Who gives a kid a knife?

"When you cut yourself, you make a hole in your skin.
Blood leaks out through the hole.
If the cut is small, it soon stops bleeding."

Which begs the question: How large does the cut have to be to bleed without end?
The dog seems delighted that the boy got bonked in the nose. And now, we inexplicably turn to verse:
"Oh there's blood in your arms and your legs,
There's blood in your fingers and toes,
And once in awhile
When a game gets too rough,
You'll find that there's blood in your nose."
 Here is a design for my new favorite wallpaper pattern. The composition is gorgeous.
Here we get a bloody knee and a lesson about scabs. Yum! Don't pick your scabs, kids!
And we're back to rhyme:

"Sometimes I cut my finger,
Sometimes I scrape me knee.
Sometimes a drop or two of blood
Comes dripping out of me."

"'Pure poetry,' says the vampire, licking his lips." I made that part up.

Jon-Jon and Annette

by Elzbieta, 1993

A book about war. And bunnies!


Total buzzkill, Dad!

Jon-Jon said, "I'm going to the brook to play with Annette." . . . But where the brook once was, there was now a thornbush.

Well, somebody got a lucky rabbit's foot.

All of a sudden, [Jon-Jon] heard Annette calling him . . .

[Annette] had made a little hole in the thorns and crossed over to the other side of the brook.
And was immediately shot.
(Just kidding. They probably lived happily ever after.)

David's Little Indian

by Margaret Wise Brown and Remy Charlip, 1956

This tiny book fits in your hand like the little Indian on the cover.

Our favorite Margaret Wise Brown story and another top-notch illustration treatment by Charlip.
And to make certain he was real, the little boy pushed him...

"What day is it?" asked the boy.
...the little Indian answered, "...Day of the first nut that fell... Day of the little blue dish... Day of the cold nose..."

FAVORITE LINE: "Day of the dreary grown-ups."

Blood mingling. Probably not a good idea.

In our inscribed copy, Mr. Charlip gives us the original title.

Brave Potatoes

by Toby Speed and Barry Root, 2000

Guest Reviewer: PHILIP NEL

A book starring potatoes illustrated by Barry Root. Yep, that's really his name.

Potatoes never sleep. Potatoes have no eyelids.

Cruelty to vegetables!

Chef Hackemup is one crazed vegetable-killer. Will nothing stop him?

Potatoes, nature's daredevils.

FAVORITE LINE IN THE BOOK: But potatoes never listen. / Potatoes have no ears.

See, ma, it's just like I told you: These vegetables are revolting.

Gives a whole new meaning to, "I'll have the chef's special."

Vegetables of the world, unite!

Vive la revolution!

No chefs were killed in the making of this book. See? He's just a little wet. The soup was merely damp, and not boiling hot. You didn't really see clouds of steam a few pages back. That was just your imagination. Honest.

WHY CHILDREN WILL LIKE IT: Confirms their suspicions about vegetables.

The Monkey in the Rocket

by Jean Bethell and Sergio Leone, 1962

We thought in 1961 Sergio Leone was consumed with finishing touches on his directorial debut, The Colossus of Rhodes, but apparently he also found time to clock in some hours at Wonder Books illustrating classics like The Monkey in the Rocket.

Sam and Bam are very special monkeys. Let's see which one we can make sick first.
 Congratulations Bam, you win. You get to stay home. Sam, you'll be harnessed into an untried hunk of metal and shot into space. Good luck.

Up goes Sam.
Down comes Sam.
"Hooray for Sam!" say the men. "Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!"

Or as J.Otto Seibold reimagines the scene . . .

WHO WILL ENJOY THIS BOOK? Any child who is excited about the current U.S. vs. Soviet space race.

ALSO RECOMMENDED: Monkey Business by J. Otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh (1995) and Space Monkey by Olive Burt (1960).
After the flight a famous lady poses for the newspapers. And Space Monkey too.