Mr Gumpy's Outing

Mr Gumpy’s Outing is a picture book for young readers who are still learning English — a variety of verbs are introduced in a way that will help toddlers to remember them.

STORY WORLD OF MR GUMPY’S OUTING

This is a very enticing storyworld — a lot of picture book characters live on farms or in middle class suburbs but not many live so close to a river, in an emerald green rustic cottage such as this:

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STORY STRUCTURE

WEAKNESS/NEED

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This is Mr Gumpy.

Mr Gumpy owned a boat and his house was by a river.

We’re told nothing about this man’s weakness at the beginning of the story — we are left to see what that is for ourselves.

We learn that his weakness is that he’s a pushover. He shouldn’t have let all of those animals onto the boat if the aim was not to get wet.

DESIRE

Mr Gumpy (presumably) wants a nice day out on the river in his boat.

OPPONENT

The opponents are all the creatures who want to join him, despite their tendency to engage in behaviours that lead to the sinking of small boats.

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PLAN

Mr Gumpy will let the animals and children onto the boat but if he warns them to behave well, everything will be all right.

BATTLE

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SELF-REVELATION

There hasn’t necessarily been any self-revelation in this carnivalesque story; it in fact seems that Mr Gumpy knew exactly what would happen from the start, since each creature on the boat behaved exactly as he’d warned them not to!

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Picture books are particularly well-suited to this kind of story, since they are read over and over again. The young reader can imagine that each reading is another separate incident which happens time and time again. This is partly what makes it funny.

NEW EQUILIBRIUM

There are no hard feelings; no consequences.

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The children and animals all follow Mr Gumpy home.

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Then they all sit down to tea. I’m heartened to see that there’s no housewife at home who has prepared all of this for them while they’ve been away (and who will presumably wash all their clothes!) Or perhaps she’s presently in the kitchen…

COMPARE AND CONTRAST

Who Sank The Boat? by Pamela Allen

Who Sank The Boat Pamela Allen cover

Pamela Allen’s tale has a definite Aesop quality to it, which tends to happen when you combine an idiomatic expression such as ‘the straw that breaks the camel’s back‘ with the characterisation from tales of old, in which the mouse is a tiny but noble creature who has more influence upon outcome than initially expected. As in Mr Gumpy’s outing, we have a group of animals who all get into a boat, and they all end up in the water (but from overloading rather than from misbehaviour).

There Was An Old Woman Who Swallowed A Fly

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly

This is another tale with an emphasis on the sequencing of animals, resulting in an explosive climax.