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The Slightly Irregular Fire Engine

4.02  ·  Rating Details ·  128 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
Relates Matilda's adventures in the Chinese house that grew in her back yard. Collage illustrations made from nineteenth-century engravings.
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published November 16th 2006 by The Overlook Press (first published 1971)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Ian
May 04, 2008 Ian rated it really liked it
A beautiful hardcover book for children, composed of early woodcut illustrations. Written by the notoriously strange Donald Barthelme.

Essentially, the story is this: One morning a little girl wakes up and goes outside to discover a Chinese tent in her back yard. Within the tent she discovers a Djinn who shows her around and introduces her to the pirate-who-knits, the elephant-who-falls-down-hills, the sword fencers, etc. etc. There is a slight Alice In Wonderland vibe to the whole thing, except
...more
Jack Waters
Aug 22, 2010 Jack Waters rated it it was amazing
Barthelme gears his minimalist mimicry into 'The Slightly Irregular Fire Engine,' a great children's picture book, which was justly rewarded with a National Book Award nearly 2 score years ago (1972).

It can be read in 10 minutes, so I won't say much as far as the plot goes without giving it away. But there are many lessons to be learned in this collaged story, such as finding happiness when what you want isn't happening quite exactly as you'd like.

TSIFE contains the types of collage works that
...more
Tom
Sep 02, 2008 Tom rated it liked it
I paid a lot of money for this book because it used to be out of print. Donald Barthelme wrote a a book for children?!? And it won an award?

I had to get a copy.

It was OK.
Christiane
This is one of those really odd books that I didn't really like so much as I liked finding something so obscure and strange in the library collection. A young girl goes out into her back yard to discover a mysterious Chinese house. The "illustrations" are 19th-century wood engravings. I really liked the elephant! I should add that this "children's" book (winner of the National Book Award!) will really appeal more to adults than actual kids.
Libby
Feb 16, 2011 Libby rated it did not like it
I couldn't even interest my 2-year-old son in TRYING to read this. After reading it once through myself, (with much protest from my son) I decided this isn't really a children's book. It's quite bizarre. I think it's meant to be some kind of hoity-toity, artistic, hullaballoo meant to impress adults with it's creativity. (but i don't appreciate it)
Miriam
Apr 13, 2010 Miriam marked it as to-read
Recommended to Miriam by: Ceridwen Christensen
Shelves: fantasy, victorian


“Would you like to have an escapade?” the djinn asked. “We can arrange that. Escapades come in two styles – fancy and more fancy.”
Jennybeast
Sep 03, 2008 Jennybeast rated it it was amazing
I have known artists who work in the realm of word and image collage, but this is the most successful storyline I've seen. It's a beautiful, compelling, dadaist story with a letterpress aesthetic. Not to be missed!
Tim
Sep 18, 2007 Tim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: forthekids
I own a copy of the original 1971 copy which won a National Children's book award. A facsimile copy has recently been released. Barthelme's collage technique makes for a fun and fascinating read.
A. D. Jameson
Nov 21, 2010 A. D. Jameson rated it really liked it
Nice to have this back in print again.
Kelly
Dec 29, 2014 Kelly rated it liked it
"years are bearing us to heaven"
Stephanie
Apr 01, 2010 Stephanie rated it did not like it
Shelves: picture-books
Didn't get it. Totally bizarro.
Kathy
Jul 02, 2013 Kathy rated it did not like it
This was the most bizarre children's book I've ever read. Normally I don't rate all the kids' books I read on here, but I wanted to save this one so I would remember it.
Amy
Oct 20, 2010 Amy rated it it was amazing
Any book that makes me laugh out loud on more than 50% of its total page count rates five stars from me!
David Markwell
Feb 08, 2016 David Markwell rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastic children's book! Full of wonderful characters and wordplay. Barthelme is brilliant!
Hope
An adult children's book, accompanied with great Victorian Dover-clip-art-esque illustrations. Bizarre tongue-in-cheek fun.
Joe
Joe rated it really liked it
Jun 26, 2008
Alexander Kirillov
Alexander Kirillov rated it it was ok
Oct 17, 2012
j. ergo
j. ergo rated it it was amazing
Mar 19, 2011
Bet
Bet rated it it was amazing
Jun 07, 2012
Alexa
Alexa rated it liked it
Feb 21, 2015
Pop Bop
Pop Bop rated it did not like it
Mar 18, 2014
Sam
Sam rated it it was ok
Jan 25, 2010
BrocheAroe
BrocheAroe rated it liked it
Feb 08, 2012
GatheringBooks
GatheringBooks rated it really liked it
Jul 22, 2016
Leiris
Leiris rated it liked it
Feb 03, 2012
Panio Gianopoulos
Panio Gianopoulos rated it it was ok
Aug 03, 2011
Phillip Duncan
Phillip Duncan rated it it was amazing
Dec 20, 2007
Alan
Alan rated it really liked it
Apr 05, 2009
Madalene
Madalene rated it liked it
Nov 13, 2007
Lincoln
Lincoln rated it really liked it
Mar 18, 2007
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Donald Barthelme was born to two students at the University of Pennsylvania. The family moved to Texas two years later, where Barthelme's father would become a professor of architecture at the University of Houston, where Barthelme would later major in journalism. In 1951, still a student, he wrote his first articles for the Houston Post. Barthelme was drafted into the Korean War in 1953, arriving ...more
More about Donald Barthelme...

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