When I was visiting Henley-on-Thames for the first time, I stumbled onto one of those charming independent book stores which are sadly becoming increasingly rare. It’s marvellous to browse and take advantage of artful displays. This bookstore had a very extensive picture book display where I got lost for quite awhile. People who know me, know how much I love good picture books! I firmly believe they are extremely important for children of all ages. When I finally emerged from that display of picture books, I had rediscovered a favourite children’s book author and illustrator John Burningham.
Burningham’s award winning books are quirky and original. They offer simple story lines, delicious repetition, humour, and a delightful anticipation of how the plot will unfold. Beautifully sketched illustrations adorn these extraordinary stories. Burningham has written and illustrated many children’s books, these are three of my favourites.
Because Mr. Gumpy makes some clearly unrealistic demands of his boat passengers, the reader knows there will be something catastrophic coming up very soon! It goes against the very nature of a rabbit to not hop, a Jack Russell terrier dog to not tease the cat, and chickens to not flap! We all know that this will be an eventful trip down the river for Mr. Gumpy and all of his passengers! Note, it’s not Mr. Grumpy, it’s Mr. Gumpy, whose grace is evident despite the bumpy ride and is amazingly not grumpy at all!
The plot is hinted at immediately in the sub-title: The Adventures of a Goose with no Feathers. Bald Borka has a problem and is suffering from being different from her siblings and other geese. With the absence of feathers, in addition to being ridiculed and being cold, Borka cannot fly! What will happen to the poor goose wearing a knitted jersey for warmth, when her whole family leaves her?
An amusing story featuring a common problem – baby won’t eat. To the rescue comes an unusual food for a baby to fancy, but the results are astounding!
The Guardian has a great interview with John Burningham, talking about his work and his books. Here is the link, there is a little 5 min video which is worth watching, and not just because it features his own Jack Russell terrier at the end!
“I became an illustrator by accident”
And, if you love a good dog story, sit back and enjoy this 12 minute version of ‘Cannonball Simp’ with beautiful music and narration accompanying Burningham’s illustrations.