The Little Red Engine and the Rocket, written by Diana Ross with illustrations by Leslie Wood was published by Faber & Faber in 1956. It was the second of a three book series of this paring, with The Story of the Little Red Engine and The Little Red Engine goes to Town, being the other two respective titles.
Said the Mudwaffler… ‘A fantabulous story about space travel, from a time before the space race’
The Little Red Engine carries a whole host of people, including a Baronet – a scientist (and notably: an authority on earthworms!), an inventor named John Trim (who was always untidy), surveyors, architects, bricklayers, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, painters, and mechanics to a secret station in Seven Sisters – all of whom are involved in the building of a rocket that will travel fast enough to escape earth’s gravity.
The building of the site takes years, and the Little Red Engine is there day after day after day, until finally… the rocket is ready for launch. But who will be the first into space?
This story is utterly dreamy. Published a year before Sputnik was blasted up into space and 13 years before Apollo 11 made it to the moon, it is full of wonder from a time when space travel wasn’t ‘the norm’. I think we take for granted nowadays just what an achievement getting into space is, but this book sums it all up perfectly. Ross describes the roles of everyone involved in the building of the secret station and the rocket, and does a great job in setting out the time it takes to undertake such a task. It’s a wordy book, but definitely one I think all space fans will enjoy!
Leslie Wood’s illustrations are really something to behold – they capture everything great about this story. His character portrayals are excellent. His colours jump off the page in moments of excitement and yet are perfectly relaxed and toned to show a softer side on other pages. His textured brush stroke has had a big influence on me (and made me fall in love with the line-less 1950s illustration style). My favourite illustration is this one…
This book is a wonder! Mudwaffler’s stamp time…
Swamp Hugs! Till the next time…