[review] All Aboard the London Bus by Patricia Toht and Sam Usher

Hurry, the bus is here! You don’t want to miss a single minute of the tour!

One of the things I loved best about living in London was public transport. Never had to worry about driving on the left side of the road, navigating those tricky roundabouts (how our British friends teased us Americans for calling them “traffic circles”!), or wasting precious time looking for a parking spot.

I was constantly amazed at how easy it was to get around a city of that size. I could take the London Underground (affectionately known as “the tube”), catch a friendly black cab, or pop onto an iconic red double-decker bus, and in no time, I’d be happily browsing the bookstores in Charing Cross Road, spending money I didn’t have at Harrod’s, or visiting the teddy bears at Hamley’s. No matter where I was headed, it was always such fun seeing London from the top deck of the bus.

You can see why I was excited when All Aboard the London Bus (Frances Lincoln, 2017) appeared in my mailbox. How could I not love a poetry picture book introducing kids to the coolest sights in my favorite city?

Written by Patricia Toht and illustrated by Sam Usher, it contains 24 lively, fun-to-read, mostly rhyming poems showcasing London’s most popular tourist attractions. We follow a family of four as they board a double-decker bus and make stops at Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park Corner, Piccadilly Circus, the British Museum, and more.

The warm, enthusiastic opener gets us revved up for a jolly good time. πŸ™‚

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Come!
Board the double-decker bus
and see the London sights with us.
At any time, hop off.

Explore!

Then climb back on and ride some more.
For better views, climb up the stairs —
the city views are great from there.
Here’s your map and city guide.
Settle back. Enjoy the ride.
Buenos dΓ­as!
Bonjour!
Hello!
Guten Tag!
Ni hao!

Let’s go!

The other poems describe what is unique or especially interesting about the attractions — a mix of architectural and cultural tidbits, history, and sensory details that draw the reader right into each scene.

We hear the loud BONNNGs of Big Ben, the “trills and tweets and toots of brass” of the Palace Guard, feel the “gust of wind” and “rumble” as an Underground train approaches, marvel at the “splintering sparkles” of the London Eye. And yes, there’s a quintessential afternoon tea (“Here’s a spot./The tea is hot./The scones and jam are sweet.”), London’s characteristic rain (“Fatter drops/in plips and plops”), and the grandeur of St. Paul’s Cathedral (“Pure./Proud./Immense”).

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I love the variety of poetic forms, how they brilliantly approximate each experience, and how the text is integrated with the illustrations.

For “The River Thames” we see a bird’s eye view of the city, with the text meandering along the curves of the river itself; for “Explore a Store” the text is displayed on hanging signs in the toy shop; and for “The Tube” the text is laid out on the station platform in a nice curve that aligns with the shape of the train.

Sam Usher’s ink and watercolor illustrations brim with marvelous details that’ll keep kids busy poring over them, from domes and spires and statues, to parks and palaces, to the crowds of people smushed into trains, watching a play, wandering an open square. Eager eyes will also love tracing the antics of a cheeky raven who greets the family at the beginning of the tour and follows them from stop to stop.

When you visit the British Museum, you are free to browse the exhibits via A Gallery of Haiku — 4 antiquities, 4 haiku, with lots of white space to examine and reflect at one’s own pace.

Each page turn is a delight, a place to explore, absorb information and impressions. Forget boring travelogues — these poems captivate and engage with buoyant rhythms and infectious energy, ensuring there’s never a dull moment, just perky surprises around every corner. Back matter includes more info about each of the iconic landmarks.

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I’m happy to share several more poems I especially enjoyed: “Seek and Find” for its novel, interactive approach; “Rain” for its evocative imagery and clever use of onomatopoeia, and “Registering My Complaint,” a bit of epistolary fun. Hope you have your umbrella handy! πŸ™‚

*

TRAFALGAR SQUARE/”SEEK AND FIND”

10 pigeons scatter as toddlers run and play.
9 ladies chatter on their way to a cafΓ©.
8 performers pose as grateful tourists clap.
7 workers doze and take a lunchtime nap.
6 dogs on leads get tangled in a knot.
5 students squeeze in a phone-box photo shot.
4 lions gaze as exploring children climb.
3 statues gaze and politely pass the time
2 fountains burst in a bubbly waterfall.
1 Lord Nelson watches high above it all.

*

PICCADILLY CIRCUS/”RAIN”

Sun slips,
dips behind clouds.
A drip.
A spritz.
Cars sport spots.
Watery window polka dots.
Fatter drops
in plips and plops,
bounce off bright
umbrella tops.
Window ledges,
awning edges
trickle with streams.
Rain fills pavement
cracks and seams.
Waters flow,
Puddles grow.
Traffic splashes —
spills a chill
that climbs your spine.
Just in time,
you find a door.
Lashing,
Crashing,
DOWNPOUR!

*

TOWER BRIDGE/”REGISTERING MY COMPLAINT”

Dear Visitor,
I grow weary of being
called by the wrong name.
I tell you, ‘London Bridge’
and I are NOT the same!
Years ago dismantled, he
was shipped across the sea.
And, without a doubt,
he’s not as GLORIOUS
as me.
I decorate the city like a
fancy wedding cake,
while unadorned,
he plainly spans
an Arizona lake.

Sincerely,
Tower Bridge

*

All Aboard the London Bus is fun for all ages, an exuberant introduction to the city suitable for tourists, armchair travelers, or anglophiles fancying a fix. Take a ride soon. Cheerio!

*

ALL ABOARD THE LONDON BUS
written by Patricia Toht
illustrated by Sam Usher
published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, May 2017
Poetry Picture Book for ages 5-8, 40 pp.
*Includes “Find Out More about London!” compendium

**Check out this lovely interview with author Patricia Toht at Picture Book Builders.

*

Margaret Simon is hosting the Roundup at Reflections on the Teche. Zoom over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared in the blogosphere this week. Have a good holiday weekend!


*Interior spreads posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright Β© 2017 Patricia Toht, illustrations Β© 2017 Sam Usher, published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books. All rights reserved.

Copyright Β© 2017 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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43 thoughts on “[review] All Aboard the London Bus by Patricia Toht and Sam Usher

    1. This book brought back many fond memories. I was surprised to learn that some years ago they began using fare cards instead of having the bus conductor collect coins, which was one of the things I especially enjoyed, since I liked the change dispenser/machine he wore around his waist. My students only had to pay 5p to ride the bus no matter the distance. πŸ™‚

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  1. I hope to visit London sooner than later and this book looks like the perfect primer to get me ready! Thanks for sharing your reflections on living in London as well as a preview of this fun book, Jama! Cheerio! =)

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  2. Now my only question is do I buy this book to read before I go to England (with a definite stop in London) or wait and try to find it there for a souvenir? I will be taking my poetry notebook with me to write along with my travels!

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    1. Lucky you going to England! Wish I had kept notebooks when I lived there — I was always too busy doing things to sit down and write about them.

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  3. This looks like the best of London travel books, Jama. Each part poetically tells what is a ‘must-see’. I’m sure you love that afternoon tea, “The scones and jam are sweet.”, and I love “PICCADILLY CIRCUS/”RAIN””, which seems so right for London. Thanks for sharing, will certainly look for this book!

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  4. I think I’ve lived this picture book! What a treat! I loved the buses in London the best; I felt so much safer there than trying to wander the city through the maze of people and cabs.

    The Trafalgar Square poem is a favorite – as is the Tower Bridge poem. Yes, yes, yes – though this information is new for some, it is indeed not the London Bridge, and we must all stop saying that! (Eventually. I’m sure someone else has to correct touristas Americano on an hourly basis.)

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    1. I felt safe wandering London too — but that was years ago. I hope it’s still relatively safe despite the uptick in terrorist incidents. It used to bother me that people called the Tower Bridge, London Bridge. I’m glad Patty thought to write a poem about that.

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  5. Having just taken my first ride on a (red!!) double-decker bus this week (but not in London) I am once again all-the-excitement on reading this post. And what a delightful fun book it looks! Thanks so much for sharing – on this of all weeks. πŸ™‚ #perfecttiming

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  6. Oh, gosh, that book looks adorable. And you know how I feel about poetry most of the time. πŸ˜‰ I will say that riding around on the double-decker bus in Edinburgh helped me prepare for driving in Scotland further north (less traffic, but same roundabouts). I was able to pay attention to which lanes turned and how, from the safety of a giant bus, before I had to risk our necks trying to do the same!

    or visiting the teddy bears at Hamley’s.

    Did I ever tell you that my favourite bear is, indeed, from Hamley’s? I got him when I was 8. When I went to Hamley’s in 2002, we were awaiting MiniPlu, so I bought a bear in hopes she’d be as in love with him as I was with Ted. Alas, it never happened (she’s gravitated to bunnies) but I can’t bear to part with Hamley (as I called the new bear), just for the memories. And, yes, I still have Ted, although he’s definitely careworn by now!

    Thanks for sharing another treasure with us, Jama!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You were brave to drive in Scotland! I would have been a nervous wreck. But interesting that riding the bus first helped you navigate those roundabouts later on.

      Love your Hamley’s story — you never mentioned it before. I’m glad you still have him (and your original bear Ted). I’m sure both bears are glad to be of service, careworn or not — that’s the mark that they’ve been loved. πŸ™‚

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  7. It’s so fun to read about everyone’s fond memories of London. Thanks for sharing ALL ABOARD THE LONDON BUS with your readers, Jama, and thanks to all for your kind comments. It was such a fun book to write and Sam’s illustrations have blown me away! ~ Patty

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    1. Wonderful book, Patty! Enjoyed featuring it here — but of course this makes me miss London even more. Love the detail and energy in Sam’s illustrations. Need to see more of his work too.

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  8. OK, Jama. We really are soul mates! I adore London, and am excited to return in July. Now I know which book I’m bringing home with me. It looks wonderful! One of my favorite poems from childhood is A.A. Milne’s “Buckingham Palace” — They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace – Christopher Robin went down with Alice. Alice is marrying one of the guard.”A soldier’s life is terrible hard,” Says Alice. http://www.dltk-kids.com/world/england/mmilne-buckinghampalace.htm — Christie @ https://wonderingandwondering.wordpress.com/blog/

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    1. Good to hear you’re a fellow anglophile, Christie! Envy your trip to London in July — have fun and be sure to have some tea and scones for me. πŸ™‚

      Thanks for the Milne link. I need to read more of his poetry. πŸ™‚

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  9. Count me in for the poetry tour of London being organized by you and Tabatha! πŸ˜‰ I wasn’t familiar with Sam Usher, the illustrations remind me of Marylin Hafner’s artwork, which I love.

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  10. I’ve never been to London, but I feel I’ve taken a quick tour with this book and the shared poems. Time for tea.

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