In a stroke of brilliance, John Burningham turns the popular Would You Rather game into a compelling picture book that does far more than simply pass the time.
If you’ve never played Would You Rather?, this is how it goes. Beginning with those magic words, each player takes it in turn to think up some teasing alternatives for the other to choose from – the more difficult the choice, the better.
Renowned children’s author and illustrator John Burningham is a genius when it comes to playing this game. Not only does he have a knack for inventing tantalising scenarios. He also brings them to life with an array of amusing illustrations with his simple yet appealing pencil and coloured ink style. To begin he asks, “Would you rather your house was surrounded by water, snow or jungle?” Surely the jungle option complete with its snapping crocodile and lioness on the lamp post will get lots of takers! Then comes the following poser…
‘Would you rather an elephant drank your bath water, an eagle stole your dinner, a pig tried on your clothes, or a hippo slept in your bed?’ Truth be known, your child would probably be quite delighted if all four were to happen!
There seems no end to the circumstances John Burningham can dream up. Some are firmly rooted in reality – for a small child it’s quite possible they may be covered in jam (by a younger sibling perhaps), soaked with water (it happens daily doesn’t it?) or pulled through the mud by a dog (when you’re not so big it doesn’t take much to knock you off your feet!).
Other suppositions are more fanciful – perhaps you’d like to help a fairy make magic, join gnomes digging for treasure, or become an accomplice for a naughty imp wielding a garden hose? The point is, children (in the age range that this book is directed at) often feel like they don’t have many choices – everything can seem to be about doing what Mummy and Daddy say. So this makes a wonderful change and a marvellous opportunity for your child to wax lyrical about what they would like to do (and all without threat to the instructive lessons they may have had from parents during the day).
Books like this are also brilliant at firing up young imaginations, and Burningham’s cascade of examples is just the ticket to inspire your child to dream up her own alternatives. As a closing line, he proposes, ‘Perhaps you would rather just go to sleep in your own bed’. It’s a subtle NLP nudge towards shut-eye in the one place your child probably hadn’t considered as an option. Of course, if you choose a book like this for bedtime, your child may lie there for some time, thoughts buzzing round her head, until she has no choice but to drift off into a very vibrant land of quirky alternatives.
Author notes British illustrator John Burningham was born in Farnham, Surrey, and as a child went to Summerhill School in Suffolk, an alternative education establishment where children take control of their own learning. He attended the Central School of Art, graduating with a diploma in design, and went on to create posters, cartoons and Christmas cards. His first children’s book, Borka: The Adventures Of A Goose With No Feathers, appeared in 1963, winning him the Kate Greenaway Award. Since then he has written and illustrated many picturebooks, including the Mr Gumpy series, Avocado Baby and Cloudland. He is married to fellow children’s illustrator Helen Oxenbury, with whom he lives in Hampstead, London.