Monday, April 15, 2019

Review - The Rocket Book

The Rocket Book
by Peter Newell
Date: 1912
Publisher: Harper & Brothers
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 52
Format: e-book

"When Fritz,
the Janitor's bad kid,
Went snooping in the basement,
He found a rocket snugly hid
Beneath the window casement.

He struck a match with one fell swoop;
Then, on the concrete kneeling,
he lit the rocket and—she—oop!
It shot up through the ceiling."

Long before Richard Scarry or Dr. Seuss, an American artist delighted a generation of children and their parents with hilarious, topsy-turvy illustrations and slightly subversive tales told in rhyme. This was illustrator/author Peter Newell.

Originally published in 1912, The Rocket Book remains as profoundly enjoyable and incredibly popular as ever. This classic work will delight readers of all ages with the story of how a rocket launched from the basement floor of an apartment building and how it interrupts the day.

Peter Newell (1862-1924) began his career as an artist drawing portraits, using crayons as his medium. In his fantastic humor, many believe, is the first appearance of the gentle humor of the absurd which The New Yorker has subsequently developed to such a high level.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This rhyming picture book actually has better rhythm than a lot of the more modern ones I've read. It's too bad it's a wee bit dated (although, for being over a hundred years old, it's not as bad as it could've been).

A brat lights a rocket in the basement of an apartment building, and then the reader is treated to a short poem about each of the suites that the rocket crashes through. It's actually kind of amusing... although it's amazing nobody was killed; that was one powerful rocket to go through all those floors!

The illustrations are quite nice, too. It's fun to see what's going on in all those apartments as the rocket makes its quick visit.

The ending is a little abrupt, but suitably comical, given what came before. I don't know if I'd read this to an impressionable young child (there's a little too much fainting and swooning among the women going on for my taste), but it might be fun for older children to see what picture books were like in the early part of the 20th century.

Quotable moment:

While Carrie Cook sat with a book
The phonograph played sweetly.
Then came the rocket and it smashed
That instrument completely.

Fair Carrie promptly turned her head,
Attracted by the roar.
"Dear me, I never heard," she said,
"That record played before!"

Premise: 4/5
Meter: 4/5
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.57 out of 5

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