Sally is in the High Street and this is what she needs… a yellow rose, a garden hose, a bunch of grapes, some roller skates… and so begins one little girl’s adventure into the world of shopping lists.
A perfectly poetic memory game, this book delivers a test of children’s recollection, with a visit to the many different provodores Sally’s list requires. A wonderful introduction for international audiences to the phenomena that is Britain’s ‘high street’ – otherwise known around the world as a town’s main street – the illustrations are silhouette-simple, then crammed with details; the backgrounds are pastel-blank, highlighting the glorious architectural details of each store, from the Victorian facade of Foggins Finest Confectionary And Chocolate store (complete with candy-cane stripe awning), to the Dutch inspired exterior of the Antiques store where yellow tulips perkily peering from the window box affirm the Flemish connection.
The best surprise (perhaps because it is an aside to the main story) is when each store opens gloriously – thanks to the lift-the-flap style pages – to reveal not only the owner and their wares, but also the private residential zones normally hidden from shoppers’ eyes.
So when Sally buys a Persian rug from the Antiques store, we are also privy (although Sally is not) to the Japanese owner’s bedroom where an image of Mount Fuji hangs reminiscently upon the wall, along with bed linens that exhibit Japanese printing methods. We see the cats in the kitchen – one asleep on the chair, the other by the stair – and the old-fashioned pull-flush toilet, so that while the rhyming words tell us “Ms Yoshiko’s antiques shop is here at number four, with hidden treasures lurking just beyond the creaking door…” children can really enjoy the exploration of things that go well beyond the remit of a store!
As Sally fills her basket with all her requisite items: a tin kazoo from Mrs Millard’s music shop, a cockatoo from Mrs Jomo’s pet shop, a garden hose from Mr Hughes’ hardware shop, she finds that one last thing is missing from her list… how will she ever find it?
The brilliant news is that not everything has to be brought from a shop – and Sally eventually sings her way home with cockatoo aflutter above her head, roller skates afoot, and a basket full of goodies. What we love most about this book is the way it offers such an astonishing array of possibilities for conversations with children; not only is there the joy of shopping – and discovering all the items that lurk beyond the window – but also all those interesting jobs we meet along the way, from the musician to the florist and the baker.
Author Notes Based in Edinburgh, Scotland, Alice Melvin studied illustration at Edinburgh College of Art, graduating in 2004. Her first book – An A to Z Treasure Hunt – was published by Tate in 2007, and Counting Birds followed in 2009, becoming a Scottish Book Trust Book of the Month in that same year. Her love of paper, print and decorative arts has also led to her creation of products that complement her written tomes, including a Counting Birds mobile, as well as a wonderful High Street diorama kit that children can make their own.
READING FUN See if older children can remember the list of things that Sally needs to buy as you work your way through the book… It’s a surprisingly hard mission! Plus, if your child simply adores the book, look at buying The High Street Diorama – not only is it a crafty activity for a quieter afternoon, but they can then perform the entire story on their newly built ‘stage’.