Annal: 1972 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature

Results of the National Book Award in the year 1972.

Book:The Slightly Irregular Fire Engine

The Slightly Irregular Fire Engine: Or The Hithering Thithering Djinn

Donald Barthelme

One morning in 1887, Mathilda went out into the back yard and discovered that a mysterious Chinese house had planted itself there overnight. She had wanted a fire engine, but the mysterious Chinese house was intriguing too. From inside came strange sounds: growls, howls, whispering, trumpeting.

Plucky Mathilda walks right in. She finds all sorts of peculiar things: a sulky captured pirate, a giant popcorn-popping machine, an elephant that falls downhill once a day—truly “every kind of flawless flourishy footlooseness.” Mathilda gets to see everything in every room, guided by the hithering thithering djinn, who even arranges to leave her a souvenir that is just about exactly what she wanted.

Renowned author Donald Barthelme presents Mathilda’s escapade in a witty and whacky text with collage illustrations made entirely from nineteenth-century engravings. It’s a unique, fun, and ultimately wonderful book.

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