Review Blog

Sep 07 2017

What's up top by Marc Martin

cover image

Penguin, 2017. ISBN 9780143783886
(Age: 5+) Recommended. Curiosity, Humour, Rhyming story. With vaguely subversive humour, the tale of what is at the top of the ladder will have students guessing and making predictions all the way through the book. The ladder is there, shown on the cover and first page with the same question, What's up top? Children will make guesses from the start, even without the ladder being shown again, it is there in their minds.
But the book asks a question, is it a hat, or black and white cat? as the rhyming lines begin, taking the reader on a journey of absurd and not so absurd responses. But whatever the response, children will laugh out loud at each page's answer and illustrations. An array of possibilities is given to the readers: a boat or castle with a moat, rain or a really fast train, or a hotel that looks like a shell. Each unusual offering will give cause to laugh at the absurd alternatives, and join in the fun of the story as it powers along.
Illustrations cover one side of the page and often small details make the eye move from one page to another, asking the reader to foretell what may in store at the top of the ladder.
Towards the end of the book choices come thick and fast: the moon or yellow balloon, somebody tall standing next to a wall, a group of iguanas in purple pyjamas, as it continues its way to thinking about what is at the top.
Children will by this stage be predicting the next rhyming word and having a whale of a time, with a range of rhyming words, probably vastly different from the ones offered, but this further create interest and enthusiasm. By the end of the book, younger readers will have been introduced to a range of things they may not have known about as well as rhyme, and thinking about that fuzzy question, what's up top?
Fran Knight

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