Come away from the water, Shirley

John Burningham, author and illustrator

London: Jonathan Cape, 1977

22 pp

Age: 3 and up

Interests: pirates, seashore, boats, treasure

Also by this author: Mr. Gumpy’s Outing, Where’s Julius?, Avocado Baby, Borka

Shirley and her parents arrive at the beach. “Of course it’s far too cold for swimming, Shirley.” The grownups set up their chairs and settle in to read and knit, but Shirley is ready for a much bigger adventure. She is captured by pirates, but manages to defeat them and goes on to dig up real pirate treasure. After Shirley’s exciting journey – accomplished without going near the water – her parents calmly fold up their chairs and the threesome head for home.

A story about the imagination of the young, but also about two solitudes, and the chasm that lies between children and their parents. Shirley is able to cast off on a truly grand adventure while her parents have a rather mundane afternoon at the beach. On facing pages we see to the left the grownups speaking to her, telling her to be careful, to stay clean, to avoid the stray dog, etc. On the right we see how far away Shirley really is in her imagination, and how courageous she can be without her parents to rein her in. As with many of Burningham’s books, this is a story directed at parents as well as at children, and is a cautionary tale about how we communicate – or fail to communicate – with our children.


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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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