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Whaddayamean

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Ten years after his acclaimed Hey! Get Off Our Train set a new standard of fun for the environmental fable, John Burningham once again tackles the theme with a daring and enchanting new picture book about taking care of planet Earth. Whadayameanimagines God taking a tour of planet Earth with two children—and finding dirty water, foul air, forests chopped and burned, and hungry people. "You have spoiled my lovely world," God then tells the children. "You must go and tell the grownups to change the way they are ...
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Overview

Ten years after his acclaimed Hey! Get Off Our Train set a new standard of fun for the environmental fable, John Burningham once again tackles the theme with a daring and enchanting new picture book about taking care of planet Earth. Whadayameanimagines God taking a tour of planet Earth with two children—and finding dirty water, foul air, forests chopped and burned, and hungry people. "You have spoiled my lovely world," God then tells the children. "You must go and tell the grownups to change the way they are living;." And so the children set off to spread God's message. And sure enough, people do listen and take notice. When God comes back for another visit, the world is a cleaner, better place. Told with John Burningham's signature ability to see with the eyes and heart of a child, here is a whimsical, exuberant, and entirely original tale filled with striking mixed-media art and an essential message about protecting the planet.

When God sees what a mess has been made of the world, God gets two children to convince everyone to help make it the lovely place it was meant to be.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Even the genius of Burningham's (Cloudland; Hey! Get Off Our Train) mixed-media illustrations can't redeem this muddy eco-parable. It starts with Creation: God spends millions of years making Earth; then, pleased but tired, goes to sleep "for a very long time." When he wakes up, he decides to look at his handiwork, but, "not wanting to be seen, God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the people." Somehow two children escape this sleep, and God takes them along on his tour. Furious at the pollution of the sea and air, the ravaging of the forests and the melting of the polar ice, he charges the children to "go and tell the grownups to change the way they are living." So the children approach businessmen ("the men with the money"), religious leaders, military honchos, the passive masses. "Whaddayamean?" the adults respond, until the children explain that God has sent them. "Oh, if it is God who said we must change our ways, then we must change our ways at once," each group responds, so blithely that readers may think the tone sarcastic. But invoking God is all it takes to end pollution, war, poverty, etc. The message to young readers is murky at best, and the audience might be better off simply admiring the art. Inventively multilayered, it attractively blends collages, rudimentary sketches and pastoral paintings as it reflects the story's movement from darkness to light. Here, in abundance, is the childlike innocence and wonder so conspicuously missing from the text. Ages 5-8. (Aug.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
We want to empower children and let them know they can save the world. This message is preached too clearly in John Burningham's Whaddaya Mean. When God wakes after "a very long time" and visits the planet, he consults two children about its sorry state. Upset about air and water pollution, God commands the two to "tell the grownups to change the way they are living." When the children approach the adults, they're first seen as snotty little brats. But after declaring, they've come from God, attitudes change magically and instantaneously. The controlling adults agree to change their plans and make a better world. It's pretty. It's easy. And it's for adults. After all they're the ones who need the message and won't be confused by the inaccurate perspective.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 6-In Hey! Get Off Our Train (Crown, 1990), Burningham brought endangered species to the attention of preschoolers with his signature sketchy caricatures. In his latest parable, he expands both the form and the content to great effect. God, who slept for a long time after Creation, visits Earth to see how things are going. He invites two children to join a tour that reveals pollution, deforestation, the greenhouse effect, war, and poverty. Disappointed, He commands the youngsters to change the world. The response from each constituency responsible for the mess is "Whaddayamean?" In the highly unlikely but delightful spreads that follow, Burningham reveals his vision of "Whatcouldbe." The touch of domestic humor when God returns for a follow-up visit adds a measure of realism, bringing the seemingly impossible into the realm of the worth trying. The mixed-media illustrations lend depth and drama to the tale. Particularly striking is the effect of the softly drawn childlike figures on white paper against bold, sweeping, painted or photographed panoramas. God is not personified; He is a voice in the midst of vivid skylines. This book can take its place with the small handful of other successful contemporary parables, allowing children a chance to reenvision the future.-Wendy Lukehart, Dauphin County Library, Harrisburg, PA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A displeased God, a deplorable environment, and the idealistic quest of two innocent children to change the world are the basis for this latest environmental saga from Burningham (Cloudland, 1996, etc.). God awakens from a long-needed nap after the creation of the world to discover that it has been defiled. In the company of two children, God tours the world, dismayed to see the decimated forests, pollution, mass poverty, hunger, and global warming. God charges the children with the task of convincing adults to change the way they live. At each encounter, the children are ridiculed with the refrain of the title until they explain that God is the one who wants the people to change. That immediately brings the people in the various groups around; harmony is restored and the world becomes as God had intended. Burningham's goal of bringing attention to the critical state of the environment is laudatory, but the manner in which he addresses the sensitive topics of religion and the military will cause consternation. No sector is spared blame as Burningham targets big business•"the men with the money"•religious factions, the military, and the apathetic masses that "took no notice of what was happening to the world." While the author strives for a light tone, the sometimes-inflammatory juxtaposition of text and art concerning such volatile issues makes for a cutting adult satire, difficult to translate for or make accesssible to children. (Picture book. 10+)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780517800669
  • Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 8/17/1999
  • Pages: 48
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 11.69 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 1.32 (d)

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