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Sixes and Sevens by John Yeoman and Quentin Blake

Sixes and Sevens was originally published in 1971 but the fact it’s still doing the rounds is a testament to the longevity of the rhyming writing style and the simply fabulous illustrations by Quentin Blake. I grew up on a diet of books illustrated by Blake and it was a joy to revisit his style in the pages of this book with the next generation of my family; my 4-year-old, Sadie.

Sixes and Sevens by John Yeoman and Quentin Blake

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Category: For Sharing
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Kerry King
Reviewed by Kerry King
Summary: When Barnaby sets off on his raft, his mother tells him to stop at each village on the way to Limber Lea… and he ends up collecting a wild and surprising bunch of passengers! Problem-solving for the pre-schooler and reception set, at its best.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 32 Date: October 2011
Publisher: Andersen
ISBN: 9781849393089

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Barnaby has a raft that he uses to navigate a quiet river all the way to Limber Lea and on this raft is a trunk full to bursting with some very useful things indeed which in fact come in rather handy as he collects an odd assortment of passengers along the way, each posing their own dilemma to the harmony of the passengers already aboard – but fear not, for Barnaby is a resourceful little boy and he appears to have it all in hand.

I really warmed to this book straight away largely because I like a rhyme. I’m a huge fan of this melodious and sing-song storytelling style because I find that if I am immediately engaged by it, that a child will certainly be. For my money there are a handful of authors who have reached the pinnacle of the genre, (Julia Donaldson's Tyrannosaurus Drip being quite far at the top of that list though possibly not topped by The Gruffalo) and I adore the way the author has located the stanzas on the page; amidst the illustrations (though this is fairly typical of a Blake illustrated book; he seems to want to get his picture of what’s going on right in the centre of what is actually going on, on the page).

The tale harmoniously winds along like the river the raft is set upon and Barnaby has to think outside the box with each and every arriving passenger (that climb aboard in numerical ascension, one through to ten) and when he has finally helped the last passenger disembark his raft, Barnaby congratulates himself on a job well done, even though he’s a bit tired and wants to go home.

My daughter liked the idea of a boat without sides – it took some explaining about how it wouldn’t necessarily sink even with all those people and animals on board – and she liked the rhymes as much as I did, even if some of them took a bit of work on the part of the reader.

To summarise, this book captured both of our imaginations from the start; the illustrations were a divine little jaunt into my childhood and Sadie was transfixed by the colourful accumulation of bodies aboard the raft.

Sixes and Sevens is also the perfect size – it takes about seven minutes to read, longer the second time because we did lots of counting of passengers – but it’s already becoming a firm favourite and in a house where the books outnumber the toys by 3 to 1, that’s quite an accolade and so I must heartily recommend it to you as it’s just a delight.

For further reading and as mentioned above, we do rather love Tyrannosaurus Drip by Julia Donaldson and Room On The Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler which is simply so delicious in it’s rhythmic cadence, one can’t help but learn all the words from start to finish after just a couple of reads.

Lastly, we at Bookbag would like to extend our thanks to the boys and girls at Andersen Press for sending us this copy to review. We also have a reviews of Rumbelow's Dance and The Fabulous Foskett Family Circus by Quentin Blake and John Yeoman.

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Buy Sixes and Sevens by John Yeoman and Quentin Blake at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Sixes and Sevens by John Yeoman and Quentin Blake at


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