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Through the Heart
of the Jungle

Illustrated by Elena Gomez

A whole host of exotic creatures come together for a rhythmic romp through the animal kingdom.

A fly buzzes through the heart of the Jungle and falls foul of a chain of chaotic events. But who started all the trouble?

A fantastic book to read aloud.

"Bright, brash and edgy illustrations ...
a rewarding, noisy, shared-reading experience."

John Mclay, CAROUSEL

"Kids will be mesmerized"


Read these and other reviews



US Hardcover • ISBN: 0340854391
US Paperback • ISBN: 0340854405



US Hardcover • ISBN: 158925029X
US Paperback • ISBN: 1589253809



However you may be able to order a remaindered or second-hand copy through amazon by using the sales links opposite.

Illustrations © 2003 Elena Gomez. Reproduced by permission of Hodder Children's Books.
The text shown is from the original UK edition and differs slightly from the US edition.

This story came about in a rather roundabout manner. I had been trying to write a jungle story for some time. One of the ideas that I had been playing around with was a rhyming text called A Breeze Blew Through the Jungle, in which a breeze rustling the treetops sets off an escalating series of events. However I wasn't really happy with the way it was working out; I found it difficult to keep the rhyme going for more than the first few verses and these felt too flat and repetitive (click here to see an unfinished draft). So I put the idea to one side for a while.

Another subject that I wanted to write a picture book about was trains. My young son Max has always been keen on trains and I am always trying to pick up on his enthusiasms. I wanted to try to write a text with a rhythm that would imitate the clickety-clack of the train speeding along the track. After a while, I came up with the idea of re-using the structure of the old nursery rhyme The House that Jack Built (click here to see the nursery rhyme). It's an accumulative rhyme, which means that the first verse is a single line to which additional lines are added, a line at a time, in subsequent verses. A consequence of this is that when the rhyme is read out loud, each verse tends to get faster and faster as the reader gets increasingly familiar with the words. I thought that this inevitable speeding up would work particularly well with a train theme, as it would suggest the train picking up speed as it left a station.

I called the resulting text The Train that Jack Drives. I won't show the whole thing here (as I may try to get it published at some future point) but you can get an idea from the fourth verse, which goes as follows: -

These are the flames that lick higher and higher,
That are made by the fireman stoking the fire,
That burns the coal,
That powers the train that Jack drives.

I was fairly happy with this text. However a publisher that I showed it to felt that it was too centred on the workings of the train and suggested that I might develop it by writing more about the passengers who might be animals. I tried this, but couldn't quite get it to work. The problem was that once I introduced the animals it was very difficult to bring the subject of the rhyme back to the train again. And the resultant text felt like two different ideas that had been bolted together.

It was at this point that something went click in my head and I realised that the same structure would work very well for the chain-of-events jungle story that I had previously been struggling with. So I dropped the train completely and rewrote the rhyme centred solely on the animals.

Although Through the Heart of the Jungle seems like a development of the earlier, unsatisfactory A Breeze Blew Through the Jungle text, I doubt I would have arrived at it if I hadn't gone by such a circuitous route. Both texts start with tiny animals and trace a chain of events that leads through larger and larger creatures. However the key difference is that Through the Heart of the Jungle traces the chain backwards through time so that the book begins with the final event and finishes with the incident that sets the story in motion.

The book's lively textured illustrations are by Elena Gomez. Elena is a relative newcomer to children's illustration, having previously established herself as a fine artist, and this is the third book that she has illustrated. Kate Burns, my then editor at Hodder, proposed Elena after having worked with her on her first book Elliot and the Big Wave. It's an interesting coincidence that Elena's second book, which, at that time, she was working on for another publisher, was The House that Jack Built!

This book is for
who roared at
the mother asleep
in her bed.

The bright, brash and edgy illustrations in rich glowing colours are the real stars in this riotous picture book. There is a menagerie of jungle creatures featured, each is gobbled, gulped or bothered by the next biggest in size and ferocity until the daddy of them all is revealed. A rewarding, noisy, shared-reading experience.

John Mclay, CAROUSEL

Glowing colours and a fast-moving rhyme combine to create a rather surreal jungle in which strangely coloured animals come and go, behaving badly against the stylised foliage ... It reads aloud well and children could soon join in. Quite young preschool children will enjoy the rhythm and the texture; older ones and infants might extend the idea and create some exotic plants and animals of their own.


Gomez's broadly imaged, textured creatures and stylized jungle foliage are composed for strong emotional impact ... The painterly illustrations delight the eye as we follow the tale to the end.

Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz, CHILDREN'S LITERATURE

There is great rhythmic movement in the art, with bursts of color beginning with blues and greens. Gradually, dashes of other colors are added, culminating in bright orange for the King's mane, as his roar fills the whole page. Kids will be mesmerized - when they are not chiming in on the title refrain.


Elena Gomez’s superb artwork brings the jungle animals to life ... A great follow on from The House that Jack Built not only for the language but also for the comparison of Gomez’s art work. A good book to read aloud; the constant repetition makes it a natural for joining-in. A quick, easy-to-produce show for an end of term concert.


The rhythmic text is perfectly showcased with lush, colorful artwork making Through The Heart Of The Jungle a popular and recommended addition to any personal or library picture book collection.