Book Review: Mr. Gumpy’s Outing

Rating: ★★★★☆

Mr. Gumpy, who lives by a river, takes his boat for a pleasure trip.  Seeing him departing, two children ask to come along, and he responds mild-manneredly, “Yes, if you don’t squabble.”  Then a rabbit requests a ride, which is granted on the condition that he not hop about; and a cat, dog, pig, sheep, chickens, calf and goat join the party, all agreeing to good behavior.  But when they all forget themselves, the boat overturns, and everyone drips back to Mr. Gumpy’s house for tea.

John Burningham captures all the elements of a comforting toddler book: well-paced repetitive action, precise use of language, and a predictable climax, suffused with a subtle, gentle humor.  Mr. Gumpy’s courtesy and aplomb in response to everyone’s misbehavior shows the best of old-fashioned British politeness, and the sweetly civilized tea provides a perfect denouement.  The fanciful nature of the tale is enhanced by Burningham’s unusual use of perspective and subtle color, evoking well the mood of a sultry summer day.  It’s no wonder the book has won several awards.

This story is best suited for a preschool audience, although it could provide some reading practice for early elementary readers.

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Publication Information: Burningham, John. Mr. Gumpy's Outing. Henry Holt and Co.. 1970. ISBN: 080503854X.
Categories: 4 Stars, Age 00-04, Honey For a Child's Heart
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Posted on March 2, 2011


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