|Rattletrap Car by Phyllis Root|
|Category: For Sharing|
|Reviewer: Magda Healey|
|Summary: A fantastic toddler book, deserving of becoming a classic which plays with language really well. Reading aloud is a must and doesn't even get boring. Buy it now for your any 2 year old you know.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 40||Date: June 2002|
|Publisher: Walker Books Ltd|
The story, as often with toddler books is extremely simple. There is a family consisting of Junie, Jakie, the Baby and - refreshingly - Dad. They live in a fairly ramshackle farmhouse and one very, very, very hot day decide to take their rattletrap car for a trip to the lake. A series of motoring disasters follows, disasters which are common stuff of nightmares and jokes for anybody who ever owned an old car. Vital parts of the vehicle virtually fall off and only thanks to the ingenuity of every single member of the family they - eventually - make it to the lake.
The mechanical disasters are not of a small calibre. It is a wheel, the floor, the petrol tank, and eventually, the engine itself that gets lost on the dusty country lanes on the way to the lake. This brings a strong surreal quality to the otherwise simple tale; while the participation of all the members of the family in fixing the problems gives the story a joyful, child-centred, democratic slant. In fact, it's actually the Baby who fixes the most difficult problem of all, one that has the older children and Dad giving up the hope of ever getting to the lake. It is thus a bit of a hymn to the children's creative ingenuity.
However, even with those nice touches it is not really the story that makes 'The Rattletrap Car" special.
Junie was hot Jakie was hot Even the baby was hot hot hot. "Let's go to the lake," said Junie and Jakie "GO!" said the baby.
Try reading it out aloud. The verse is excellent, with a rhythm that makes it a delight to read aloud, fun to listen to and resulted in my daughter learning chunks of it by heart even though generally she doesn't remember poems. The best thing is the creative use of onomatopoeias - gathered, newly created and re-formed. The following is just a selection:
...wappity bappity lumpety bumpety clinkety clankety whumpety whomp...
All of that is of course consistent with the rhythm and the meter of the more descriptive parts.
The illustrations, done in light pastels, are pretty good although perhaps not breathtaking; quite realistic without approaching 'The Watchtower" style and provide enough detail to engage a smaller child while being pleasant to look at for an adult.
The artwork is very dynamic and the onomatopoeic parts of the text are sometimes part of the artwork rather than being typeset in standard font. This makes them even more expressive and adds a strong a comic-like quality which enriches the book.
The purely linguistic pleasure derived from reading it aloud means it is the only one I sometimes agreed (grudgingly, as not to create a precedent) to read twice in a row. I have not yet got bored with it either, part of the attraction being that it is rather short, the total reading time does not exceed five minutes.
It would be suitable from relatively early age as it is not text-heavy, and the onomatopoeias will delight even a very small toddler if you give them enough oomph and expression while reading. My personal enthusiasm suggests perhaps that the upper age limit might be quite high, but realistically it is a toddler book and I would not buy it for anybody over 3 years old for the fear of offending with a 'baby book'. How long it will stay read and recited and acted out is another story.
You can read more book reviews or buy Rattletrap Car by Phyllis Root at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Rattletrap Car by Phyllis Root at Amazon.com.
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