Norman Flint’s new picture book in rhyme follows Rag and Bone, a pair of amphibian friends, on a tourist jaunt to the Tower of London.
Their journey begins as they board a bus with no idea of how to reach their destination. A fellow passenger, a hedgehog, proves no help, so they disembark, “causing mayhem and fuss.” Fortunately, they immediately meet a pig driving a horse-drawn cart who knows the way to the tower and offers them a ride.
Upon their arrival, Rag and Bone take a tour that includes Traitor’s Gate and the Tower’s armory and hear tales of Anne Boleyn and others who lost their heads. (In an illustration perhaps not appropriate for a children’s book, a wolf enthusiastically uses an apple and an axe to demonstrate the purpose of “the old Chopping Block.”) After their visit, they spend the night on the banks of the Serpentine and set off for home the next day.
Rag and Bone Visit London contains typos (“reign” for “rein” and “story’s” for “stories”); even in a book best suited to read-aloud ages, such errors are unfortunate. The protagonists’ cab ride to the Tower feels truncated: Their driver takes them past Aldwych, St. Paul’s, Wapping Shadwell and Aldgate in only five lines of text and one illustration. Nevertheless, the pictures are warm, colorful and amusing (with impressive architectural detail on the landmarks Rag and Bone visit), and the writing style is entertaining.
As Rag and Bone Visit London assumes familiarity with London’s history and landmarks, its appeal might be limited to youngsters who already have some knowledge of the city, unless their adult reading companions can fill in the gaps – and choose to ignore or gloss over such issues as the typos and “the old Chopping Block.”