Books & Literature

Book Review: All Aboard the Discovery Express, by Emily Hawkins & Tom Adams

Aboard the Discovery Express, discovering the history of transportation through interactive lift-up flaps and wonderful illustrations.

This UK trio has produced a terrific interactive book for children on the history of transportation and our human desire to go faster and further. Emily Hawkins is a writer and editor of children’s books, Tom Adams is an award-winning television producer and author, and Tom Clohosy Cole is a freelance illustrator, designer and animator who has done lush illustrations for the book, drawing us into the story.

We are in Paris in 1937, all ready to board the Discovery Express when it’s discovered the tour guide, Professor Pendleton, is missing. We begin with a map the Professor has left us, dotted with lift-up flaps which mark significant moments and turning points in the history of transportation and the reader is treated to wonderful illustrations from Leonardo da Vinci’s carriage describing his work in the Renaissance period with ideas such as helicopters which were far ahead of his time.

As the time-travelling train progresses we learn about milestones and new technologies of transport through the years – from the Penny Farthing bicycle, steam ships and canals, trains, motor vehicles and on to aircraft. Alongside this is a parallel progression of riddles, puzzles and other clues hidden behind more lift up flaps to find the Professor. My nine year old co-reviewer particularly enjoyed this feature and solving the puzzles.

Given that women had so few opportunities to get involved in technology and engineering and although our travelling companion is a girl, Nancy Delaney, described as ‘an all-round adventurer’, I am disappointed to see that the only illustration of Bertha Benz (as in Mercedes Benz) shows the car being pushed by her sons. As Mrs Benz took the car, without telling her husband, to show it off on a drive to her mother’s home 100 kilometres away and employed ‘her ingenuity to keep the car going…she used her hatpin and garter to make repairs’, could not a more positive image of women and transportation have been used?

The large format book will appeal to a wide age range of children. Younger ones will enjoy the pictures while it contains plenty of details and puzzles to make it both informative and entertaining to appeal to older children. I can recommend it as an ideal Christmas present.

Reviewed by Jan Kershaw and Alex Pate

Rating out of 10:  7

Distributed by: Allen & Unwin
Release Date: October 2017
RRP: $27.99 hardcover

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