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. 🙂
Board the double-decker bus
and see the London sights with us.
At any time, hop off.
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.
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”).
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.
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! 🙂
TRAFALGAR SQUARE/”SEEK AND FIND”
10 pigeons scatter as toddlers run and play.
9 ladies chatter on their way to a café.
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.
dips behind clouds.
Cars sport spots.
Watery window polka dots.
in plips and plops,
bounce off bright
trickle with streams.
Rain fills pavement
cracks and seams.
Traffic splashes —
spills a chill
that climbs your spine.
Just in time,
you find a door.
TOWER BRIDGE/”REGISTERING MY COMPLAINT”
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
I decorate the city like a
fancy wedding cake,
he plainly spans
an Arizona lake.
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 © 2017 Patricia Toht, illustrations © 2017 Sam Usher, published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2017 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.