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Winner of the
Perth & Kinross
Word’s Out Picture
Book Prize 2007

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illustrated by Deborah Allwright



"A surefire ice-breaker. Yee-ha!"

Nicolette Jones, THE SUNDAY TIMES

"This delightful rendition of the classic song is all one could hope for ... this is one bandit y’all should go out to meet!"


Read these and other reviews


UK Print-On-Demand Paperback

ISBN-10: 1838110518 • ISBN-13: 978-1838110512

US Print-On-Demand Paperback

ISBN-10: 1838110526 • ISBN-13: 978-1-838110529

(Originally published in the UK by Egmont Books)

Buy this book at amazon UK Buy at amazon US

Sing-along Video

Extended Sing-along Video with Actions

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The idea of adapting the song She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain into a picture book was suggested to me by Kate Burns, who has edited several of my books. 

One of the first things I had to do was research the origin of the song.  She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain is an old American folk song based on a Negro spiritual called When the Chariot Comes.  The original lyricist is unknown, but the song is believed to date back to the 1800s  - so there was no problem with copyright!

It’s not clear who the “she” in the song is.  The song was known to be popular with railroad work gangs, so one explanation is that "she" is the train that will be coming along the tracks that the gangs were laying.  Another possible explanation is that "she" refers to the union organiser “Mother” Jones who travelled the country setting up the first labour unions.  You can read more about the origins of the song on this page of the Wikipedia website.


She'll be comin' ‘round the mountain
when she comes,


She'll be comin' ‘round the mountain
when she comes,


She'll be comin' ‘round the mountain,

She'll be comin' ‘round the mountain,

She'll be comin' ‘round the mountain
when she comes,


There are several versions of the song in existence, which all have minor variations.  One popular campfire version includes different sound effects for each verse, the first verse of which is shown opposite.

This version is sometimes sung in an accumulative form, with each sound effect being repeated at the end of subsequent verses until you end up with a string of sound effects at the end of the final verse.  It was this accumulative form of the campfire version that I used as a starting point for my adaptation.

However I felt that even this version was too repetitive for a picture book text, with the same phrase repeated five times for every verse.  I wanted to break down the repetition a bit and add a little more character and originality to the words.  The problem was, if I took out too much of the repetition the song would lose its familiarity – which would be a major part of the book’s appeal.  After playing around with it a bit, I decided to substitute a rhyming couplet for the third and fourth repetitions, which allowed me to maintain the song's familiar rhythm.

Having settled on a verse structure, I started to look at the individual verses.  I kept all the verses from the campfire version except the one about having “to sleep with grandma”. My original idea was that the ‘she’ in the title was a Buffalo Bill type cowgirl entertainer who turns up and entertains the town with her extraordinary exploits.  So I wrote six new verses to develop the story along those lines.  The “paint the whole town purple” verse is a reference to the Clint Eastwood western "High Plains Drifter", in which an enigmatic cowboy literally paints a whole town red.

Two of my original verses were eventually cut from the final edit, but if you who fancy attempting an extended version, here they are.  They go straight after the dustbin verse in the book.

And she'll only eat bananas when she comes,


Yes, she'll only eat bananas when she comes,


She eats eight at every meal,

And she even eats the peel!

Yes, she'll only eat bananas when she comes,


And she'll sleep out in the stables when she comes,


Yes, she'll sleep out in the stables when she comes,


She'll just grab a heap of straw,

And bed down upon the floor.

Yes, she'll sleep out in the stables when she comes,


Some of Deborah’s first character sketches, showing the narrator and the cowgirl, whom Deborah christened Clayton Cactus and Bonnie Bandit.

Although Kate Burns had suggested the project, the publisher she was working for did not want to publish it, but it was quickly picked up by Lara Hancock at Egmont. Lara shared my view that the book’s illustrations should have a zany feel and already had an illustrator in mind.  She sent me some proofs of Deborah Allwright’s illustrations for The Night Pirates.  The delightfully boisterous girl pirates that Deborah had created for that book made it obvious that she was a perfect choice for this one.

The lyrics of the song are written in the future tense, so I'd proposed that we have a narrator character who would tell the children of the town what to expect when the enigmatic “she” arrived.  I’d suggested that this narrator might be a schoolmistress or an old grandpappy, but Deborah’s solution (revealed in her first character sketches shown opposite) of using a singing cactus was far more surreal and appealing.  Other elements that Deborah introduced, such as the band of animal musicians, helped bring the book to life, but what holds the book together is the energetic drawings of the central character, who Deborah christened Bonnie Bandit.

One of the ideas that occurred to me after Deborah had started work on the pictures was the actions page at the back of the book.  When the song is performed at campfires the sound effects are often accompanied by appropriate actions and I thought it would be nice to carry this through to the book.  To get the idea across, my daughter Laura borrowed a cowgirl costume (we even managed to get a pink one) and posed for a set of photographs showing the actions that went with each sound.  I marked these photos up with arrows and captions and Deborah drew them up using the characters from the story. Click here to see a larger image of the original action sheet including the actions for the two cut verses.  It was these images that prompted my dedication for the book.

This book is for
who looks cute,
when she wears
a cowgirl suit.

Illustrations © 2006 Deborah Allwright

A book to sing along to - best with a party of children - is She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain by Jonathan Emmett. We all remember the tune (in the book if not) and that “she’ll be wearing pink pyjamas”, but who knew that “They are flowery and frilly, / And they make her look quite silly” or that “she” is Bonnie Bandit? Deborah Allwright’s cartoony illustrations express the brio of the song. A surefire ice-breaker. Yee-hah!

Nicolette Jones, THE SUNDAY TIMES

In this version of the traditional American folk song, the heroine is a feisty little girl in pink pajamas, "flowery and frilly,/and they make her look quite silly." Her six white horses have names like Moonbeam and Stardust. When she comes, she will be doing remarkable things like "juggling with jelly" ("Squish-Splat!"), dancing across the rooftops ("Yee-Ha!"), and painting the whole town plum so "the place won't look so glum." A turquoise sky shows off white cowboy-hat clouds, and two foldout pages open wide like green saloon doors to welcome her. The joyful children and animals playing instruments who go out to meet her are small against the landscape, which is done in a palette of Southwestern colors. These illustrations are as lively as the new verses and call for another round of singing, using the hand motions given at the end of the book.


Based on the familiar song, a guitar-playing cactus leads us all in a hoot'nanny of a ride through the mountains where we meet a musical band of critters, a whole posse of young 'uns and a crazy kid wearing a dandy pair of pink pyjamas! A great song to join in with round the campfire... again and again.
The pictures are mighty pretty too. Y'all are gonna love this one!


Sing along, dance along and follow the adventures of rootin' tootin' frontier Babe. After a short introduction, the text swings into multiple verses of the title tune. Who knew there were so many? "She'll dance across the rooftops" and "she'll paint the whole town purple" are just two. Each verse also has its own fun exclamation for listeners to shout out or sing, from "Toot-Toot!" to "Tee-Hee!" to "Squish-Splat!" Backmatter even includes pictured instructions on how to perform each exclamation. (For "Squish-Splat," you imagine juggling jelly with both hands.) Another surprise is a pair of giant saloon-door pages that open out to reveal Babe and all of her partying friends waiting to come in. Dancing type adds energy to Emmett's Wild West hokey pokey, as do Allwright's lively illustrations full of dancing, jiggling chickens, prairie dogs, owls and, of course, kids. Yee-Ha!


Every now and then a picture book crosses my desk that is impossible to resist ... this delightful rendition of the classic song is all one could hope for. With suggested actions for each verse, loads of extra details (Her pajamas are ‘flowery and frilly, and they make her look quite silly‘) and eye-popping illustrations, this gem will appeal to adults who fondly remember belting out the song and youngsters who will love to ‘Slurp-slurp, Bish- Bosh, Toot-Toot‘ and ‘Yee-Ha‘
Perfect for bedtime or circle time, this is one bandit y’all should go out to meet!


The book that stopped me in my tracks this week is a children's picture book. I'm susceptible to them, too, but this one is rather unlikely. I defy any grandparent to resist singing along with She'll be coming round the mountain (Toot, toot) by Jonathan Emmett. Gloriously, racily illustrated, with irresistible sound effects, it should be on every grandparent's bottom shelf. Except it will be off the shelf as often as it's on.