Rattletrap Car

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Rattletrap Car By Phyllis Root, Illustrated by Jill Barton, book reviewDuring the National Year of Reading, I thought I should look for some different books to read aloud at the nursery where I work. I found just the book to inspire me at my local library: Rattletrap Car, by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Jill Barton.

Why has it taken me so long to discover this wonderful book? What if I never had? My experience of the English language would have been so much the poorer. How have I been working with young children for so long and not known of the existence of razzleberry dazzleberry snazzleberry fizz? Thankfully now I do, and I also understand to what uses chocolate marshmallow fudge delight can be put.

The story of Rattletrap Car revolves around Junie, Jakie, baby and Dad. Mum is not mentioned at all, but they seem to muddle through without her. The story starts as Dad is tending to the chickens on their farm. A pig looks on, and Junie, Jakie and the baby, sitting on the ground and feeling the heat, decide that it would be a good idea to go to the lake. Dad, however, surveys their rattletrap car and is concerned that ‘it doesn’t go fast and it doesn’t go far’. The children aren’t taking no for an answer, however, although Junie and Jakie are polite enough to say ‘Please, please, please!’ Baby just cries out ‘Go!’

Dad knows he must give it a try, so he packs the aforementioned fizz and fudge delight. Junie brings her enormous beach-ball, and Jakie a surf-board that’s about twice as long as he is tall. Baby naturally has a ‘three-speed, wind-up, paddle-wheel boat’.

“This is one book that Dads who take the children out on their own for the day can have a great laugh over.”

As their journey begins, we are treated to a feast of onomatopoeia: ‘Clinkety clankety bing bang pop!’ Then disaster number one strikes as a tyre goes flat. Junie is not fazed; she replaces the flat tyre with her beach ball, sticking it in place with chocolate marshmallow fudge delight. It’s the obvious thing to do. Off they go again, ‘clinkety clankety’, but every so often another part of the car falls off. No problem: they improvise and replace it with one of the other things they have brought along. Each time they get going again, we are treated to another burst of onomatopoeia, be it ‘wappity bappity’, ‘fizzelly sizzelly’, ‘flippita fluppita’, or a combination thereof.

If you want to know whether or not the car survived the journey all the way to the lake and home again, I’m sorry, but you will just have to read the book for yourself.

This is an amazing book to read aloud to young children. The lettering is in red in a large font, but I wouldn’t recommend it for emergent readers as they might get a complex struggling with words such as ‘bappity’, ‘rattletrap’ or ‘bumpety’. It will be as much a delight for most adults as for children, so it is a book to be enjoyed together, savouring the wonderful sounds that Phyllis Root has conjured up here. This is magical language.

Jill Barton’s colourful illustrations fill every page and make this book a visual treasure as much as a linguistic one. A little flock of sheep comes along to gaze dumbfounded at one of the problems the family is having, and rabbits look on under a moonlit sky at the end of the story.

This is one book that Dads who take the children out on their own for the day can have a great laugh over. Not being a driver or a mechanic myself, I cannot vouch for the solutions the family finds for their broken car, but I think I can safely say don’t try this on your way to the lake when your car breaks down…

For the joy of the language and the drawings, as well as the idea of using your imagination and improvising when things go wrong, this is a book that will provide entertainment again and again. It also demonstrates how family members can work together to overcome obstacles and not give up the minute a problem arises. Although aimed at young children, I think anyone who can read English and has a love of language and books should read this one. I borrowed it from the library, but I am sure I shall buy my own copy when I have to take it back.

Rattletrap Car by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Jill Barton
Walker Books, 2002

To find out more about the National Year of Reading, visit http://www.readingforlife.org.uk/

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Rattletrap Car
by Phyllis Root, Jill Barton

2 Comments on "Rattletrap Car"

  1. Zoe @ Playing by the book
    29/09/2010 at 16:44 Permalink

    Love the sound of this one!

  2. frangliz
    29/09/2010 at 16:53 Permalink

    Thanks for your comment, Zoe – it’s a super book!

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Written by frangliz

I have a degree in Fine Art but never actually worked in that field. After almost two years in Paris, I moved to Cairo and spent many years there teaching English language and literature in schools. I came back to the UK in 1999 and now work with young children. I also tutor students of all ages in French, English or Maths. I enjoy writing reviews in my spare time; another hobby of mine is photography. I have two sons who are now grown up, both working in IT.

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