Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 26 Mar 2024

The Animal Train by Becky Syson, illustrated by Elsa Rickett-Trueman

Who would not be tempted by the cover of this strikingly yellow picture book which shows a wooden train packed with jolly looking soft animal toys, including a nonchalant monkey wearing red sunglasses and a lion holding a stripy umbrella? Where could they be going?

As the simple rhyme unfolds, we learn that the motley crew are off for an exciting trip to the seaside. On each turn of the page the reader is invited to guess who is travelling in the different numbered carriages and to participate with appropriate actions and sounds that build the momentum. The repetitive rhythm is probably due to the author being a musician - a singer-songwriter - and so the text will work well to encourage young toddlers and even babies to join in and keep the beat.

The large format text is minimal and memorable and stands out well against the yellow background. I liked the strong colours used in the illustrations and the way in which the same characters keep appearing so that readers can name them over and over. The illustrator is evidently inspired by a mixture of Pop Art, nature and the imagery of more traditional children’s books.

As well as enjoying the rhyme, readers will be pleased to see that the toys reach their intended destination on the last page where they are shown chatting, building a sandcastle, playing guitar, riding a donkey and paddling in the sea – lots of detail to explore here.  This will inspire plenty of artwork and imaginative play as children can re-enact the rhyme with their own toys.

Self-Published on recycled paper, you will be able to buy this delightful picture book, the first of many planned creative collaborations by Becky Syson and Elsa Rickett-Trueman, directly from the author’s website: 

Karen Argent

March 2024