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Tootles The Taxi

With our big stock of Ladybird Books that come through Stella and Rose's Books, we often see which titles are most popular by how long they stay on our shelves.

A title that appears to not stay on our shelves very long is that of 'Tootles The Taxi and Other Rhymes' written by Joyce B. Clegg and illustrated by John Kenney. This being the case, I wondered why this book was so popular and sat down to read it myself.

With the title, which I always refer to as 'Tootles', you could be led to believe that the book is mostly about a taxi by that name (well, that is what I thought anyway). To my surprise the rest of the title 'And Other Rhymes' describes the book more accurately. 'Tootles' is just the first rhyme in the book, with every subsequent page having a different vehicle and corresponding rhyme.

The vehicles featured in the book are humanized with each having a different face, very much like the characters in the Thomas the Tank Engine series by Rev. Awdry. The book was published in 1956 and the pictures reflect this post-war period in the style of the vehicles and the clothes the children and adults in the pictures are wearing. (You don't see any modern sports cars in this book!).

Characters in the book include, obviously, 'Tootles the Taxi', but also 'Tony the Tractor', 'Stumbles the Steam-Roller', 'Co-co the Caravan', 'Maurice the Motor', 'Mickey the Mail Van' and 'Cuthbert the Coal Cart' to name just some. With their simple eight line rhymes I can see what many have found charming about this book. For the children, the brightly coloured illustrations with easy to learn rhymes would, on the one hand, be an education, but at the same time, a delight. I also like the way that Ladybird were not gender specific with this title, which could so easily have become a 'boys' book; but with the children (a boy and a girl) visiting each of the various vehicles together with their dog, this made it a book for all to enjoy.

Edition Information:

The book was originally published by Wills & Hepworth in 1956 and was the ninth title to be released in series number 413, Fairy Stories and Rhymes. The first edition had pink covers, with illustration and title to the front cover, and had a full colour pictorial wrapper showing a boy, a girl and their dog, waving to the different vehicle characters as they drive down the street. For later editions, after Ladybird had discontinued the use of dustwrappers, the front cover of the now matt blue boards shows the same picture as on the original dustwrapper. On a few other editions it appears that there were minor changes made to some text, and to the front cover, for example, the dog is omitted but is still included on the drawings internally. Later the children were put on a pavement and a lead was put on the dog, before he was omitted altogether.

In 1985 a completely new edition of 'Tootles' the Taxi and Other Rhymes' was published, still by Ladybird books. However this later edition is by Lynne Bradbury and illustrated by James Hodgson. Published with shiny pictorial covers, the contents also differ from the original edition, with newer forms of transportation being included and other older ones from the original 'Tootles' being left out.

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Contributed by Joanne

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