Mr. Gumpy’s Outing — by Guest Mom Laurie Smithwick

January 10, 2007

Back when I was first falling in love with Design Mom, I got all starry eyed over her showcasing wonderfully illustrated children’s books. I do so appreciate a beautiful picture book, and I daydream about lounging around her fabulous home sipping tea with her while we lovingly thumb through her collection of Caldecott Medal winners.

So while I’ve got your attention, I’m going to share with you my absolute favorite picture book. Mr. Gumpy’s Outing, by John Burningham.

It is a quiet, sweet, rhythmic book about a man who owned a boat and his house was by a river. The illustrations alternate between delicate pen-and-ink drawings so scratchy you can almost hear the etching, and lush, layered, color vignettes so evocative I sometimes get teary-eyed looking at them.

One of my fantasies is to hire an artist to reproduce all of the animal pieces on the walls of a nursery. Some watercolors, some pastels, some color ink. Each one more poignant than the next. And I would just sit in the lamplit room and cry and cry and cry with joy. Sigh.

First published in 1971, Mr. Gumpy’s Outing won the Kate Greenaway medal, which is the United Kingdom’s award for an outstanding book in terms of illustration for children and young people. Essentially, the UK’s Caldecott. And alongside the illustrations the story is just as precious. It has a no-nonsense gentleness I readily associate with the UK.

“May I come, please, Mr. Gumpy?” said the pig.
“Very well, but don’t muck about.”

And it conveys its lesson with humor and not one trace of irritation. We can all learn something from kind, patient Mr. Gumpy. Especially as parents. If he can maintain his good humor in a small boat full of kids and animals, surely I can make it through dinner tonight!

Give yourself and your kids a treat this week and go find this book. If you want to own it, try your local independent bookseller, or, of course, you can buy it here.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Erin January 10, 2007 at 8:44 am

How can you not love a book that contains the phrase “muck about.” Thanks for the suggestion!


2 Anonymous January 10, 2007 at 9:21 am

Lovely. And, good point.


3 Jenni January 10, 2007 at 11:09 am

thanks for sharing, can’t wait to check it out


4 Girl con Queso January 10, 2007 at 11:35 am

This book looks fantastic.


5 Design Mom January 10, 2007 at 1:34 pm

I’ve got to get my hands on a copy.

And what Erin said.


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