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The Little Red Engine and the Rocket (Andre Deutsch Classics) Hardcover – 4 Oct 1999
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The Little Red Engine was very excited about the launch of the new rocket. It blasted into the air, carrying the very first space passengers - the frogs, the cat and the little dog Hurry. But when it came down, there were extra passengers on board.'
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The rocket, made of Super-High-Tension-Non-Magnetic Alloy, had a pressurised passenger cabin, a separate compartment for the atomic powered dynamos, three booster rockets to send it on its way, retractable wings for descent and mobile fins for navigation. It was finished off with Infra-Red Absorbent crimson paint which was considered the best colour to withstand the cosmic rays met in space, which are much stronger than the sun's rays.
When at last the rocket was ready to carry its first passengers into space, there were six frogs from Noman's Puddle, the one-eyed gamekeeper's cat and little dog Hurry. In space, the gamekeeper's cat had nine kittens. Eight she named after the planets from Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, through to Neptune and Pluto. The ninth she called Tish, after his father. After a safe landing she carried the kittens gently in her mouth to a quiet place she knew of behind the stove in the First Aid Post.
This delightful story for five to seven year olds by Diana Ross and illustrated by Leslie Wood was first published in 1956, the year before the Russians launched the first earth satellite Sputnik 1. It is amazing to find that her story is not in the least bit dated, which is a measure of the careful background research into rockets and space that she must have done at the time. She has a real feel for scientific and engineering endeavour and communicates the sense of excitement of a ground-breaking technical project in a way that will appeal to any imaginative child.
I love the contrast between the progressive Little Red Engine, quite content to do what it can to help the Cleverest Scientist and the Cleverest Inventor launch themselves into Space, and the grumbling engines Pride o' the North and Beauty of the South who fear that : "They won't be bothered with engines now they've got their rockets and contraptions."
This is a definite must for the millenial Christmas Stocking. Every grandparent should keep this book on their bookshelves for when the grandchildren come to stay.