2 picture books about world markets and universal child delights

Market_cover_LIt’s a familiar scenario from childhood; the thrill of setting off with pocket money to spend: What to choose with the coins in your pocket? Where to spend it? And yet, in To Market! To Market! by Anushka Ravishankar, illustrated by Emanuele Scanziani, a joyous, richly illustrated rhyme, what one little girl discovers is that the real fun’s not in the spending and buying at all.

Great fun to read aloud, especially if you let your voice mirror the playful typesetting, To Market! To Market! is also beautiful and exciting to look at. Vibrant, intensely coloured illustrations of various market stalls overflowing with goods evoke childhood fantasies of hoards of treasure.


Eye-catching and exuberant, To Market! To Market! will brighten anyone’s bookshelves, as well as giving a window onto another culture – the market stalls in question happen to be in India, but the fun and beauty in this book are universal.

offtomarketfrontcoverLikewise, whilst the specifics of Off to Market by Elizabeth Dale, illustrated by Erika Pal may seem a world way to many readers – following the problems one boy has on the bus to a market, this time in Africa – kids the world over will delight in seeing how kids just like them can be the ones to solve problems adults can’t seem to get their head around.

The market bus, overloaded with people, goods and livestock, has ground to a halt. The adults all complain, but no-one makes a move until young Keb shows them what they need to do. Where would adults be without kids, heh?

Click to see more illustrations from 'Off to Market'
Click to see more illustrations from ‘Off to Market’

With lively, rhyming text and bright illustrations mixing watercolour, print making techniques and blocks of bold flat colour Off to Market is delightful. My kids immediately remembered The No. 1 Car Spotter by Atinuke (my review here), a super early chapter book, which also features an African market.

Hoping our bus journey to the big markets in town wouldn’t turn out to be nearly as eventful as that in Off to Market we set off for a day out exploring the sights and sounds of all sorts of (Birmingham) market stalls.






As we were out and about we didn’t listen to any music, but if you’re looking for a market-themed, kid-friendly set of songs you could start with these:

  • The African Market by African Treehouse
  • Let’s Go To Market by Frank Leto
  • And this great version of This Little Piggy Went to Market:

  • Apart from visiting your own local market, you could enjoy these activities alongside reading the books I’ve recommended today:

  • Making your own market role play area. This idea from Ikat bag might whet your appetite.
  • Playing with saris. If ever I see a sari in a charity shop I snap it up – they are not only great for dressing up, they’re also fabulous for den building being large, and light, and often very decorative.
  • Day tripping to India! It’s easier than it sounds… here’s how we did it without flying anywhere!
  • Giving your kids a small budget and setting them a task at the market – either buying ingredients for a meal, or treasures to play with. You could write a shopping list together and guess before hand how much you think everything might be. Whilst we were at the market we jotted down vegetable prices and then compared them with the prices in a supermarket – the kids were very surprised by what the discovered.

  • Have you a good market near to you? I’ve always wanted to go to a flower market or a spice market, but what about you?

    Disclosure: Both books reviewed today were sent to me for review consideration by their respective publishers.

    5 Responses

    1. Amy

      My son is loves buses and we had great fun with Off to Market when we find it at our library. He played market bus for weeks afterward!

    2. Menai

      We have just come back from living in India and that market book was one of the things we used to explain to our daughter where we were going. We referenced it throughout our travels and now that we are home it’s a happy memory. Maybe we should have a little holiday there soon to keep those memories alive! We also love the sari book and a fair few more! Great post and we shall get hold of the African book too!
      Menai recently posted..Project 365 week 19

      • Zoe

        Lovely to hear how you used the book before, and now it’s rich with memories for you, Menai.

    3. choxbox

      Sending this link to Anushka, bet she’ll be kicked!

      Lovely post as usual 🙂

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