We got this book from the library a few days ago. We really enjoy John Burningham’s books, including the popular Granpa, Edwardo the Horriblest Boy in the Whole Wide World, and Mr. Grumpy’s Outing. Burningham’s books are not to everyone’s taste; he deals with issues many children’s writers do not want to tackle, such as death and sadistic teachers, and some of his books do feature a bit of hitting, or the threat there of . I think his books are fantastic. In John Patrick Norman McHennessy, the boy who was always late, the hero, John Patrick Norman McHennesy, is punished daily for being late. But hey, it isn’t his fault. Every day, as he sets ‘off on the road to learn,’ he is accosted by some wild animal who rips his clothes, or a tidal wave drenches him, or some other calamity. Of course, his strict teacher does not buy these stories, so John is humilated and forced to do lines, and even threatened with a beating. Then one day, it is the teacher who finds himself in a sticky situation. But little John saunters out and continues on ‘the road to learn.’
Although (slightly) exaggerated, the attitude and behaviour of the teacher is startlingly true to life. (I’m not saying all teachers are cruel, but a few are) Children are often humilated, punished for crimes they have not commited, and it wasn’t too many years ago when children were hit by teachers. The bit I love is that John realises that true learning takes place outside of the school, in real life; he learned more on his adventures to school than in school.