Friday book review – The Bumper Book of London by Becky Jones & Clare Lewis

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Friday 13th April 2012

The biggest treat when I was little was a trip to London to stay with my mum’s great friend Sally. At the time Sally was editor of She magazine and lived in a top floor flat in Stafford Terrace, just off Kensington High Street.

In the evenings we listened to Daydream Believer by The Monkees (RIP Davy Jones) and learned a mad card game called Spit that we still play to this day.

But during the daytime Sally always had an action-packed itinerary planned. She encouraged me and my sister to run round the Round Pond in Kensington Gardens and race up the tube escalators at top speed (full of energy and pzazz, she didn’t believe in just standing there doing nothing). She took us to the Tower of London, Madame Tussauds and Kew Gardens, to cool shops like Biba and Mr Freedom and was furious if we ever said anything was boring. “It’s only boring if you make it boring,” she’d retort.

London is the most brilliant place for children, and if you’re looking for ideas about where to go, The Bumper Book of London is the perfect guide. Written by Becky Jones and Clare Lewis and subtitled “everything you need to know about London and more,” it’s stuffed full of history, folklore, funny street names, the modern skyline, London lingo, the best free and fun things to do, the best places to buy sweets, ice creams and toys, recipes, songs and much much more. I particularly liked the lists of children’s stories set in London – from Madeline in London by Ludwig Bemelmans to Mary Poppins by PL Travers and Beverly Naidoo’s The Other Side of Truth.

For children (and adults) who love random facts, there are plenty to chew over. Thanks to the book, my favourite new discoveries are that all black cabs have a turning circle of only eight metres because of the narrow roundabout at the entrance to the Savoy Hotel, that the sphinxes at the base of Cleopatra’s Needle are positioned the wrong way round and that the London 2012 Velodrome has been nicknamed the Pringle – because it’s the same shape as the crisp.

The Bumper Book of London by Becky Jones and Clare Lewis (Frances Lincoln, £9.99)

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