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The Slightly Irregular Fire Engine
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The Slightly Irregular Fire Engine

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  108 ratings  ·  14 reviews
The National Book Award-winning children's classic relates Matilda's adventures in the Chinese house that grew in her back yard. Renowned author Barthelme presents Mathilda's escapade in a witty and whacky text with collage illustrations made entirely from 19th-century engravings. Full color.
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published November 16th 2006 by Overlook Juvenile (first published 1971)
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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
Jack Waters
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
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.
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)
Feb 03, 2014 Miriam marked it as to-read
Recommended to Miriam by: Ceridwen Christensen
Shelves: victorian, fantasy

“Would you like to have an escapade?” the djinn asked. “We can arrange that. Escapades come in two styles – fancy and more fancy.”
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!
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.
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.
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.
An adult children's book, accompanied with great Victorian Dover-clip-art-esque illustrations. Bizarre tongue-in-cheek fun.
Any book that makes me laugh out loud on more than 50% of its total page count rates five stars from me!
A. D. Jameson
Nice to have this back in print again.
Didn't get it. Totally bizarro.

Irregular, indeed.
Cláudia Costa
Cláudia Costa marked it as to-read
Dec 05, 2014
Caitlin Morris
Caitlin Morris marked it as to-read
Nov 29, 2014
Drew Coyle
Drew Coyle marked it as to-read
Nov 23, 2014
Sarah marked it as to-read
Oct 09, 2014
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Alicia Zapata marked it as to-read
Oct 07, 2014
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Georgia Bloo marked it as to-read
Jul 10, 2014
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Jun 11, 2014
Will Bryan
Will Bryan marked it as to-read
Jun 04, 2014
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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
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