ROCKS THE CRADLE
The Little Eire Engine, by Graham Greene, with illustrations by Dorothy Craigie. (Max Parrish. 6s.)
Reviewed by W. J. IGOE CHILDREN figure largely and sadly in the novels of Mr. Graham Greene.
His daughter's face, " vague in her first communion veil," leads Scobie in The Heart of tlw Matter to the verge of damnation ; in Brighton Rock the evil of his slum home stirs hatred into the heart of Pinkie.
Philip, the boy in The Basement Room, is marred for life by his friendship with Baines and in the short story The End of the Party Francis. the twin, is killed by fear when forced to play in the dark.
In Confidential Agent. a little girl is murdered; the pathetic Holly Martins in The Third Man is pursued by a child whose innocence. in the context, borders upon the Si n mater.
In the travel book, The Lawless Roads, Mr. Greene reflected upon the anxiety a man may have for his own children and there we have a clue to his attitude to the young. It is tender and pessimistic. He fears for them and sees them for what they are—life's victims whose innocence is predestined to be attacked by the evil of the world.
The Little Fire Engine is a book written and designed to be read within the world of innocence. It has the authentic Graham Greene touch in its villain the Mayor of Much Snoreing " His name is Briggs and he is a proud. bad man. He wears a chain round his neck
and a three-cornered nat. He did not like Sam Trolley because Sam refused to salute him when he visited Little Snoreing."
Miss Craigie has caught the pride of the wicked man Briggs with charming accuracy in her pictures. How superciliously the pince-nez droop above those sleepy eyes; how the mouth sags as superciliously he speaks to fellow-citizens. he obviously regards as subjects.
The artist, I suppose, is responsible for the design of The Little Fire Engine. Mr. Parrish, the publisher, will do those of us who arc conscripted occasionally to read to the young a favour if he places the design on display for other publishers.
Books to be read to the very young should have wide covers so that it is possible to hold them while clasping an infant upon the knees.
The covers should be long and narrow so that they encompass the child yet remain steady on the knee-cap. They should have plenty of pictures. If more than oneeighth is letter-press. the child becomes bored and the reader exhausted.
No passage of prose in The Little Fire Engine is more than fifty words in length; the pictures are strictly re
lated to what is said. When the passage is read the child will see it illustrated and thus may meditate while its servant has time for a breather before moving on to the next instalment.
The story is straightforward, recording how the little fire engine, Toby the pony who pulls it, and old Sam Trolley the fireman are made redundant, • as Mr. Isaacs says, by the decision of Mr. Briggs to have a motor engine. At Christmas the noble trio come out of retirement into the snow and show the world, and Little Snoreing, that they are unbeatable in putting out fires.
It is told in clean, simple language and bright sharp colours. It has a beginning, a middle and an end, and I have already tried it on my godson. He listened with respect and interest. He got it for a Christmas
present. But not ?fly copy. I'm keeping that one for his godfather.