Goodbye, Mr. Gumpy
January 9, 2019 2:27 AM   Subscribe

In contrast to many of his contemporaries ... [John] Burningham was not by any means a gifted draughtsman. It may be that the absence of mannerism or stylistic trickery in his drawing was key to the purity of voice that connected with so many readers and led to such widespread appreciation, not only in the UK but also across the globe – Burningham’s books are especially revered in the far east. He was never a confident speaker or writer in the traditional sense; his genius lay in an ability to communicate in a childlike but never childish visual language and in his understanding of the mutually exclusive worlds of childhood and adulthood. John Burningham obituary

A list of John Burningham's books

Burningham's wife, Helen Oxenbury, is also a revered writer of books for children.
posted by chavenet (10 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Pendragon at 3:24 AM on January 9


His books, most especially Would You Rather, were a beloved part of my childhood.

I don't know if it's still on display (it might well have been part of their December exhibition), but I noticed a lot of his work up in the Chris Beetles Gallery in London when I walked past just before Christmas. Lots to enjoy in their online catalogue - these mice, for example.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 4:07 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]

Such lovely work. Reading the Mr Gumpy books to my kids is always a soothing, satisfying experience.

posted by ZipRibbons at 4:23 AM on January 9

I had never heard of him before; that's too bad because I would have loved to have read his books to my daughter when she was young. They look wonderful! While learning more about him I came across this article showcasing his work.
posted by TedW at 4:29 AM on January 9

Mr. Gumpy is a treasure! Thanks to John Burningham for such lovely books.

posted by marlys at 5:34 AM on January 9

posted by JamesD at 6:11 AM on January 9

Years ago I adapted his book Harvey Slumfenburger's Christmas Present into a holiday play for children at our UU church. I still love its simplicity, its repetitiveness, and its open ending. He was very talented.

posted by dlugoczaj at 6:39 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]

Both the kid and I loved his books.

posted by carter at 8:00 AM on January 9

posted by Altomentis at 5:05 PM on January 9


I adore Would You Rather. I basically absorbed it as my life philosophy; even now I think, would I rather go to a performance review or be eaten by bears? Write this report already or be carried away by giant birds? Also the kid in it is kind of a cartoon version of me so when I was little I thought it was about me.

Such wonderful gifts to us all.
posted by kitten magic at 5:07 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]

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