The launch of the Kindle got me thinking about all the things an e-reader can never be. You can't inscribe it to a loved one or press flowers between it's pages. It can never be an object, loved and cherished and passed from person to person, with any history. Your children cannot draw upon the pages and fill it with precious memories. Illustrations look terrible on it, especially art, which needs a grand scale. For these reasons and many more, help me celebrate the real thing: dusty old books!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Train spotting

Like a lot of boys I grew up loving trains. Proper trains... steam trains. I adored these Little Red Engine books by Diana Ross (I'm guessing that's not the Disco Diva...but who knows?). Certainly I much preferred them to Thomas the Tank Engine and co. Originally they had illustrations by Lewitt-Him, about whom I know nothing, except I love the design and order of the illustrations. Later books were illustrated in a very simular vein by Leslie Wood, and these books have been reissued. But Lewitt-Him's have not which is a shame. In any case the originals, with colour separation, lithographic covers are so much more beautiful than full colour modern covers, as is the matt paper within. I especially love the cover underneath the dustwrapper of Leslie Wood's illustration (bottom picture), just gorgeously simple. In the stories, which take me right back to home and my childhood, the Little Red Engine has remarkably straightforward adventures: In The Little Red Engine gets a name (which I think is possibly the first book in the series) he carries the King on the main line. "And then they came to a tunnel, the first it had ever been through. It took a deep breath: WHOOOOEEEEEOOOOO!" To a train mad kid that was poetry! His reward is to be named "Royal Red" by Special appointment to His Majesty the King. Quite right too!


  1. Sadly I don't remember these specific books, which sound beautiful. However I remember books of the type but being a 50's kid with 4 brothers all books had a lot of pairs of hands to pass through and so took a big battering. If anything survived it is now with my brothers but knowing their disrespect for anything to do with reading then I suspect nothing has.

  2. Well it's rare for a children's book to survive in good condition. But it's better for them to be battered than ignored...I think!