Road trip with a rattling good yarn

14th February 2003 at 00:00
Gwynneth Bailey chooses a tale of disaster averted on a day out to set Years 1 and 2 exploring language

Rattletrap Car By Phyllis Root Illustrated by Jill Barton Walker Books pound;9.99 hardback, pound;4.99 paper


In this lively picture book, Dad agrees to take the three children to the lake on a hot day despite the unreliability of his rattletrap car. The children take a beachball, a surfboard and a three-speed, wind-up paddle-wheel boat, while Dad prepares a Thermos full of razzleberry dazzleberry snazzleberry fizz and some chocolate marshmallow fudge delight.

Among other disasters, there's a flat tyre and the petrol tank drops off, but the resourceful family use all their packed belongings to make repairs.

How to use it


Highly recommended as a literacy hour group read for Years 1 and 2. The structured story has a rhythmic text accessible to young readers despite the long, nonsense words and phrases which children enjoy memorising and which rattle off the tongue. Some pages demand speed, while others call for a lingering look, and children become adept at reading in an animated style.

Speaking and listening

Read the story, pausing at each misfortune. Ask the children to discuss in pairs how a repair might be effected. They will soon catch on, realising they should use the packed items. Re-read the whole story, encouraging children to join in the nonsense language and repetitive text.


An adult narrates. Working in groups of four, children take on the roles of the book characters. Leave gaps for enacting each scene and working out dialogue. Children will then be keen to create their own written versions of the story.


This is a great text for scaffolding children's writing, enabling them to create a hugely satisfying story with minimum adult support. Imaginations may soar, while structure and all necessary vocabulary can be given, according to the ability of the pupils.

Ask pupils to work in pairs, either able and less able, or with others of similar ability. Provide a wordbank of character names, the nonsense vocabulary, and the car's sound effects: "Lumpety bumpetyClinkety clanketyBing bang pop!" Make a storyboard as a whole class, discovering the repetitions. Give the repetitive text to younger writers. After an opening sentence, move the action on by each pair selecting their own destination, and, perhaps, other items to pack. After each car repair, repeat the lines:

"They were off to (place name)in their rattletrap car."

"They didn't go fast andthey didn't go far."

The story can be as long as the children's writing stamina will allow.

These scripts will then be ripe for performance. Some could be word-processed, and all can be illustrated. Rehearse, then record the finished stories, using the two voices of the authors in each .


With various media, create a large "rattletrap car" display. Label all the added components (such as the beachballwheel, "stuck on tight with chocolate marshmallow fudge delight"). Add the cumulative chorus of car sound effects, from "brum brum" to "POP!". Hang the completed paired-writing stories around the two sides and bottom of the board. On a table below, display a beachball, a surfboard, a wind-up boat, along with the picture book (and don't forget the razzleberry dazzleberry snazzleberry fizz and chocolate marshmallow fudge delight).

Gwynneth Bailey is English co-ordinator at Aldborough Primary School, Norfolk

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