Title: Locomotive
Author: Julian Tuwim
Illustrators: Lewitt & Him
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Genre: Children’s picture book:
Book format: Hardback
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Description: This classic book invites us aboard a steam train as it chuffs and puffs out of the station carrying giraffes, elephants, bicycles, umbrellas and trio of men, all eating sausages. Just like the 1937 original, this edition also includes a well-loved folk tale about an enormous turnip and a hilarious story of chatterbox birds who can’t agree on anything.

Review: I enjoyed reading this book and can remember reading parts of it when I was a child. ‘Locomotive’ is a book made of three separate stories: Locomotive, The Turnip and The Birds’ Broadcast. Each story is unique and I loved reading and looking at the pictures of ‘The Turnip’ when I young. The book is about in half of an A4 size and is hardback with matt pages inside.

Locomotive book page image one
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The three different stories all rhyme, mostly, and as I’ve already said they are very unique.
This is the first story and it tells the tale of a steam train, standing at the station, getting ready to go while it’s cargo is put on board. The rhymes are done beautifully here and as you read through the story you not only read some funny things but the whole feel of the words are made to sound like a steam train and the sounds it makes. There are lots of silly things put on the cargo of the train and as It pulls out of the station you get sentences that not only narrate the story but bits of the story as if told by the train itself as it travels, desperate not to be late. It’s not at all complicated, more difficult to explain than to read but the whole thing sounds really fun and it’s a lovely read.

Locomotive book page image two
©The Strawberry Post

The Turnip:
I remember reading this with my mum when I was a child, although the text was in Polish so the rhyme sounded different and possibly better. The story is a simple one and is both funny and very silly. Grandpa has grown a very big turnip and when it’s time to pull it from the ground he tries but it’s stuck, so Grandma comes to help, she pulls at Grandpa and Grandpa pulls at the turnip but still it’s stuck. So Grandma calls their grandson Theo to help pull, Theo pulls Grandma, etc. You can see where this story goes! 🙂 The list of characters that help pull the turnip which refuses to come out of the ground grows so long it ends up with lots of animals helping too! I won’t say what happens at the end, but it’s a bit of a moral regarding someone more greedy. It’s a very funny story and was such a silly one that it has stuck with me all these years.
The Birds’ Broadcast:
This story was my favourite when reading this book now. Parts of this rhyme while others are just nonsense chatter from all the different birds. It’s a story based on the multiple bird chatter you can sometimes hear outside, the birds decide to broadcast their songs but nobody can understand anyone else, there’s interrupting and the whole thing descends into nonsense with the birds all making their own individual sounds at each other: squawk, squawk, squawk, cheap, cheap, cheap, etc. Kids would really love all the silly bird noises and I’m sure lots might enjoy repeating the silly sounds the birds make. It ending is very silly too.

Locomotive book page image three
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Each story is accompanied with lots of illustrations. The book I remember reading was illustrated by a different person, Jan Marcin Szancer, which I did prefer as they were a little more colourful and the turnip looked huge, but this book I’m reviewing has been illustrated by the original illustrators all the way back in 1937! The illustrations are lovely, and feel very Polish. I especially like all the colourful birds sitting together at the table, and the way the whole of Locomotive is illustrated with a lot of text arranged in creative ways such as being parts of the train tracks.

The whole book feels very fun to read, even though it was originally published eighty years ago. Locomotive feels like such a fun story, and I’ve not seen many stories these days that try to recreate the sounds of things. The Turnip is still my favourite story overall because of it’s ever growing group of characters pulling at the turnip and there’s funny illustrations of everyone holding on to everyone else. The Birds’ Broadcast is a new favourite story too, it really is nonsensical but I was laughing out loud while reading it and then when I read it to someone else I was in fits of laughter again at just how silly it is to repeat!

Locomotive book page image four
©The Strawberry Post

Despite the many positives, and I know it’s hard for the story to be translated while retaining the fun feel of the rhymes, there are some problems. Some of those rhymes aren’t perfect, with some words only rhyming if you can put a bit of a strange accent on the word. There’s also a mistake with one of the names half way through a story which might be a printing error. It’s only minor issues but enough for me to rate this less than 5 (though the original tales still get a 5). I still really do love this book though and would recommend it for just how different it is. Maybe I’m a bit nostalgic having read this as a child and knowing now that the stories are eighty years old! they are still just as readable today, in a fun language that’s still understandable and they’ll just bring a smile to your face as you read them. I’d definitely recommend trying this book.

Do you like this book? What books do you remember or did you love reading as a child? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂