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Family Life: Jewels in the crown; Vibrant verse and comforting stories make great reading for toddlers, says Jayne Howarth.

Byline: Jayne Howarth

Toddlers are simply sponges when it comes to learning; they adore bright colours and love rhyme. These three simple formulae have been used together beautifully in Engines, Engines, An Indian Counting Rhyme.

Written by Lisa Bruce, this delightful picture book (Bloomsbury pounds 4.99) takes its inspiration from the Indian rhyme 'Engine, engine, number nine steaming down the Bombay line'.

It takes the young reader through numbers one to ten and, as the original rhyme suggests, offers a glimpse into another culture.

We are introduced to the temple of Vishnu, women wearing saris, fantastically bright golden palaces and exciting dancing in easy and pleasing doggerel style which makes it easy for a toddler to learn.

But it is the illustrations by Stephen Waterhouse which absolutely brings the rhyme to life.

In rich jewel colours, the pictures are vibrant and fun and are packed with detail so that improvised stories can be told by creative parents.

In a more traditional vein, Shirley Hughes, that stalwart of children's books, has her Alfie's Numbers and Alfie's Alphabet books published in paperback by Red Fox (pounds 4.99 each).

There is something instantly comforting and warming about reading Alfie, which was first published 20 years ago.

Both adults and children love the softly illustrated and charming drawings.

Neither Alphabet nor Numbers is in rhyming format, but they do offer a glimpse into the world of the toddler and his family - a voyage of discovery through messy play, visits to grandma's and parties.

And those who are familiar with the works about four-year-old Alfie and his sister Annie Rose will also recognise the friends and family who appear throughout the pages.

There is something absolutely constant about Alfie's little world which makes his an endearing choice for youngsters.

Collins Children's Books has republished Richard Scarry's ABC Word Book and Best Ever Counting Book (pounds 5.99 each). They were first launched in 1975 and look rather old-fashioned and drab compared with modern books, but they're bound to delight parents aged 30-something.


Full steam ahead: Engines brings rhyme to life
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 10, 2001
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