Mr. Grumpy’s Outing by John Burningham

We have been enjoying our summer. We’ve been swimming at the lake, swimming at the pool, and doing lots and lots of reading. I have also tied screen time to workbook pages, and I signed my girls up for Kumon. Kumon is a tutoring program originally based in Japan, and it places emphasis on repetition to ensure mastery of a subject. They offer math and reading programs, ranging from basic preschool skills to high school. My oldest girl is going into second grade, and she is a dynamo reader. She could use a little boost in math to make sure that she has her addition facts down before she goes back to school. Likewise, my younger girls are going to Kindergarten in the fall, and one of them could use some help with letters and letter sounds, so I signed her up for reading. The other twin is pretty well rounded, but I didn’t want her to feel left out, so I signed her up for math.

One of the benefits of the reading program is that it allows the student to bring home a book after every session. We were sent home with Mr. Grumpy’s Outing, a picture book written and illustrated by John Burningham.

Now, I am reasonably familiar with children’s literature. I was an avid reader as a child, and I raising three avid readers. I don’t recall ever having read about Mr. Grumpy.

This is a charming story about a man with a boat. Mr. Grumpy takes his boat out on the river, and an assorted cast of children and animals ask if they can join him. Mr. Grumpy agrees to take them, but asks that they behave. When the goat kicks (after having agreed not to), it sets off a chain reaction. The boat tips, and everyone falls in the water. Mr. Grumpy is decidedly not grumpy about this turn of events, and he invites everyone back to his house for tea.

The illustrations are simply rendered with watercolors and a crosshatch design with pencils. As the story progresses, and more passengers are picked up, the boat gets fuller and fuller. Mr. Grumpy uses a long pole to push the boat in the water.

We read Mr. Grumpy’s Outing several times while it was at our house. After the first time, my little girls were able to fill in the story as we read it. They remembered what Mr. Grumpy said to each animal: don’t bleat, don’t tease the cat, don’t hop, etc. This allowed them to participate in the story.

I would recommend Mr. Grumpy’s Outing to children under the age of five. The simple plot and repetition make this a wonderful story for younger children. Apparently, there is another Mr. Grumpy story about a trip in a motorcar. We will have to track that one down at the library.

If you would like some more information about the book, you can find it here: Mr. Gumpy’s Outing

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