Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Little Red Caboose by Marian Potter; illustrated by Tibor Gergely (1953)

The Little Red Caboose is a book I missed reading as a kid.  It's a famous Little Golden Book - not as famous as The Poky Little Puppy, but among the top.

There aren't cabooses on trains anymore, which is sad.  Everything started to go wrong with the world when cabooses disappeared. Everyone in the story waves to the big black engine (until the end of the story, at least) - but my brother and I always waved to the caboose.  And sometimes the guy riding in the caboose waved back.

The world of The Little Red Caboose is a railway trip through Eisenhower's America.  The wilderness looks like Yellowstone.  The skies are blue and clear.  Optimism everywhere.  People are smiling and waving.  There is a busy feeling of progress.  And everyone is white. Except one page, which has stereotypical Indians doing stereotypical Indian things like living in a teepee and wearing feathered headdresses.

Snark aside, it's beautifully illustrated, and the story, while no Little Engine That Could, would keep the attention of most kids.

The Little Red CabooseThe Little Red Caboose by Marian Potter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The railway equals progress and the 1950s world of The Little Red Caboose is optimistic progress at its very Eisenhowerian best.  Everyone is smiling and happy and going some place. It's an American trip.  Although there are several scenes with castles tucked away in the distance, which is obviously more European.  Ignore those castles, it's definitely still 1953 America.  There's a pesky lack of diversity though, which reflects 1953 as well (except for the Native Americans, but that's a whole other issue).

The Little Red Caboose is probably not as iconic as The Little Engine That Could, but the story is still sweet.  The illustrations (even without the diversity) are gentle and happy.

What this world really needs is the return of the caboose.  Kids need cabooses to wave at, to remind them about going places,and to take their love out into the world.  The little red caboose is no more, and that's a sad thing.  

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