With six TURNABLE wheels!

Arriving 1st August 2024*

Number Train

illustrated by Ingela P Arrhenius

ONE cheerful cheetah, racing down the track.
TWO hungry hippos, munching on a snack.”

All aboard the Number Train!
A spectacular lift-the-flap rhyming counting book that’s also an incredible fold-out train to play with!

* US Edition Published 3rd September 2024


UK Hardcover
ISBN: 978-1839946400
US Hardcover
ISBN: 979-8887770611


See Inside

Author's Note

The idea of Number Train was originally suggested to me in 2017 by author-editor Camilla Reid who was then my editor at Nosy Crow. Alphabet Street, my first novelty book with Nosy Crow and Ingela P Arrhenius, had yet to be published, but initial feedback was enthusiastic, so Camila wrote in an email, “I am starting, cautiously, to think about a follow-up. Number Train? Might that work?” I thought it would work very well and subsequently sent Camilla a rhyming counting book text for a concertina, lift-the-flap format similar to Alphabet Street.

After some consideration, Nosy Crow decided we would do another street book – Christmas Street – as the follow-up. However, I felt Number Train had legs (or wheels!) and a few years later, I returned to it to see if I could think of a way to improve it. One of the things that made the two concertina street books I’d done with Nosy Crow so appealing was the big panorama illustrations Ingela created for the reverse sides. This idea must have come from Ingela or someone at Nosy Crow as I’d left the reverse side of my original Alphabet Street prototype blank.

I decided that the reverse side of Number Train would give readers another look at the locomotive and carriage interiors that were shown beneath the flaps on the front side. I thought it made sense for the number of animals on the reverse side to be the same as the front  – so that there would still be ten animals in the carriage with the big number “10” on the front, nine animals in the “9” carriage and so on. However, I redistributed the animals on the reverse side so that only one of each type of animal could be found in each carriage. A page stuck to the inside back cover encouraged young readers to look through the reverse side of the train, spotting and counting each type of animal in each carriage.

The front (with flap open) and reverse side of the toilet carriage in the prototype

To demonstrate the concept, I made a prototype dummy of the book using photos of real animals. In ordinary circumstances I would have sent this prototype to my agent Caroline Walsh, who would have shown it to potential publishers in person. However, I made the prototype in the summer of 2020, during the first COVID lockdown, when Caroline and most of the publishers she worked with were obliged to avoid meeting other people and work from home. Before lockdown, most publishers would share prospective new projects widely in-house, with people from editorial, design, sales and marketing departments getting together to discuss them. In such meetings a novelty book prototype could be passed around a table, but that was not possible under COVID lockdown restrictions. So Caroline came up with the brilliant Idea that I make a video demonstrating how the prototype worked, which she could send to publishers, who could then email it between their departments. This proved to be such an effective way of sharing a novelty prototype that, post pandemic, I have continued to make demo videos for new novelty projects.

The video I made to demonstrate the prototype version of the book

Although Nosy Crow had turned the book down previously, they were still my first choice of publisher, so we sent the video to Victoria England, who’d taken over from Camilla as my editor there, first. I’m glad to say that the new idea for using the reverse side won them over and this time Nosy Crow accepted the book! 

As always, Ingela has done a brilliant job on the book’s illustrations, giving each carriage or wagon a colourful, distinctive design and filling them with amusing and appealing occupants. My favourite is Carriage 8, which contains a band of eight penguins playing musical instruments (as shown in the “See Inside” section above). Here’s how the same carriage looks on the reverse side, where the penguin pianist remains, but the other instruments are played by other animals.

The reverse side of the Carriage 8

And Nosy Crow made the finished book even more appealing by adding wheels to the front and back cover, which turn as it’s pushed along!