Gumption! by Elise Broach

gumptionCindy: Tally ho! Jungle storyhours have a new book to add to the repertoire that usually includes the “Going on a Bear Hunt” chant. Elise Broach and Caldecott medalist Richard Egielski have teamed up for a comical literary safari in Gumption! (Atheneum, 2010). Peter’s Uncle Nigel, an experienced explorer, invites him on a trip to Africa to find a rare gorilla that proves to be a challenging trek full of visual surprises. It’s reassuring that only binoculars are used to hunt the animals, but adults may be uncomfortable with Uncle Nigel’s self-absorbed neglect for his nephew’s well-being while children chortle at his myopic blindness to the help provided to his nephew by the animals surrounding them. At each challenge in their journey, Uncle Nigel uses a tool (rope, life vest, hunting knife) that he’s brought to help himself and leaves his nephew with only the encouragement to have some “gumption” to persevere. Fortunately, the animals provide better care for the boy while stripping the uncle of his tools by book’s ends. Broach takes more than a few shots at the stereotype of a clueless British explorer and there are plenty of visual delights here in Egielski’s bright ink, pen and watercolor illustrations. Look sharp, readers!

Lynn: One of my grandsons pulled this colorful book off the new book rack on a recent trip to the library and it has proved to be one that both boys loved. There is nothing more appealing to them than seeing more than the grown-up in the story sees.  So they loved spotting the clues in the picture that precedes each funny animal-assisted scenario and they never tired of the central joke. Uncle Nigel is sublimely oblivious as each animal upstages him and helps Peter. Richard Egielski’s illustrations are a delight and the focus group giggled all the way through. This book is a terrific way to introduce foreshadowing. The boys wanted to know right away what “gumption” meant but I asked them to see if they could figure out the meaning for themselves by the end of the story – and of course they could. Don’t you love it when a fun story offers teaching moments?

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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