The Rocket Book

Written and illustrated by Peter Newell


This book was originally copyrighted by Harper and Brothers Publishing in 1912. Peter Newell was born in 1862. He illustrated for Mark Twain and the Alice in Wonderland books. Once relegated to the shelves of the Library of Congress, the book has been reissued in print and digitized versions. It is available online at

As many of my readers know, I am a history lover; I write about history. I live in a house that is more than one hundred years old, and I grew up in an apartment not unlike the “flat” in this story. The illustrations in this book are priceless! Newell uses black and white and muted colors that make the drawings pop. Facial expressions convey the humor and intent of the story. Each part of the story contains eight lines of catchy, clever verse. Even though today’s children may be unfamiliar with many of the items pictured: a Remington typewriter, a wooden hobby horse, a taxidermist with his walrus head, they will get the story from looking at the rhyme and the accompanying illustration.

What is the story? The janitor’s kid named Fritz, who is described as a “bad kid,” finds a rocket in the basement of a twenty-one story apartment building. He lights it up. The reader is taken on a humorous journey following the rocket through an apartment on each of those floors. The mayhem which ensues includes knocking off grandpa’s wig, ripping through a new hat through a hat box, destroying a breakfast table while exploding catchup on the family, and scaring off a burglar in one of the apartments. Where and when does it stop? Take a look at this book to learn a lot about early twentieth century people, clothing, and lifestyle. This book will appeal to adults interested in vintage objects and children age eight and up who enjoy humor, a good verse, and a dose of history.

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