The Incredible Journey – book review

Book Review – The Incredible Journey by Tom Burlison, illustrated by Sara Sanchez – review by Katharine Finkill

The Incredible Journey is an exciting adventure book for young children, about the imaginings of two children, Ruby and Elliot, as they walk to school each morning. With simple, clear illustrations by Sara Sanchez this lovely book explores the different everyday objects that the children find on their daily journey to school. It skilfully takes the reader into the wonderful world of Ruby’s imagination, as she encourages Elliot to go on these amazing journeys with her and to realise his own ideas. Each morning they discover something new that takes them on an adventure ‘portal puddles’ that can transport you to interesting places, such as pirate ships; a pebble that looks like a spaceship; a piece of paper that might be a treasure map; a branch that is really a witches broomstick, until finally Elliot finds dinosaur dung.

This book not only facilitates opportunities for children and adults to discuss Ruby and Elliot’s adventures and to contribute their own ideas, but it also provides opportunities to reflect upon and consider the ordinary objects that they have come across on their own walks. In addition, there are possibilities for ideas and talk to flourish when looking closely at the pictures, as the images reveal more than is expressed in the words.

My only criticism of the book is that at the beginning Elliot asks a question about girls and cartwheels, however on reflection I think this provides an additional opportunity for discussion.

What is really amazing is that this story was written by a seven-year-old boy. The Incredible Journey is the 2018 overall winner of the Book People’s Bedtime Story Competition for children aged under 11.

I came across the book a few weeks ago when I saw Tom and his Mum being interviewed on BBC Breakfast one morning. During the interview, Tom confidently talked about where his ideas came from and how the overall theme was inspired by his own journeys to school with his Mum and brother. Tom’s Mum also talked about these journeys to school and the importance she placed on allowing time for the children to stop and look at things when they were out, as well as the ways in which they often made up stories about the things that they saw.

I think this book would be a great addition to settings with 4 and 5-year-olds, and the fact that the author is a child himself who also stops to look at things on his way to school should really appeal to children.

To find out more information and to buy the book go to

1 thought on “The Incredible Journey – book review”

  1. I love this book as it takes me back to walking to school myself with my friends and then with my children when they were younger. I found myself re-living the route and the conversations in my mind and many treasured memories. It also got me thinking about the thousands of children who miss out on this valuable journey due to the modern ‘school run’ car journey.
    Thanks for sharing this Katherine, I will definately be ordering a copy for our new nursery!

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