Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Book That Impacted My Life - Kelly Burstow

Here is the first in what will be a special series of Guest Posts here at The Book Chook. If you're interested in submitting an article about a children's book that has had an impact on your life, please use the Contact Me tab above. Today's article is from Kelly Burstow. 

Kelly Burstow combines her passion for design, art, children’s books, photography, fashion, writing and parenting in her blog, Be A Fun Mum.
Be A Fun Mum is all about reclaiming the joy of parenthood in a fast-paced world. How? Three words: Love the Moment. By loving the little moments, parents can experience snippets of happiness and joy, which in turn, reclaims family life for what it is: a collection of small moments, like pieces of a puzzle, together creating a beautiful masterpiece. 

A Book That Impacted My Life

I purchased something on impulse today. It was something I HAD to have. It could have been shoes... but it wasn't. It could have been a handbag... but it wasn't. It even could have been chocolate... but it wasn't. This is what I bought...

Believe it: a stuffed toy. Surely I’m too old for such things!  I stopped at a book shop to pick up a present I ordered for my daughter’s birthday. As I was standing at the counter, I spotted a Grug stuffed toy based on the books by Ted Prior. I literally gasped and impulsively put it on the counter as the attendant said, “They only sent us one of those for some reason.” That one belonged to me; I knew it.

GRUG!  My first Grug book was Grug in the Playground.

I read it and loved everything about it: the simple story line, the look of the character and the droll humour. Grug made me feel better about myself because he wasn’t perfect and made mistakes. He was clumsy; he bumbled through things and learnt by making mistakes. Grug was just like me.

My Grug book survived every cleanout and I still have my copy today. Why? Why would such a simple story stay with me so very closely? I thought about the question and came up with this: It felt like Grug was written just for me. Grug told me something about myself I had not yet realised. I realised it was okay to “do then learn” rather than the norm through schooling of “learn then do”. I realised it was okay to be me, even if that meant I was not like everyone else.

I now have the entire set of Grug books for my children to enjoy. It’s special for me to watch them read the books.

My children love the Grug books but may not necessarily connect with or learn from them like I did. That’s why I expose my children to a variety of books, not only for the obvious literacy advantages, but because books can make a difference.

Books can make a difference by:
1. conveying a message through long lasting images;
2. explaining big issues in a way a child can understand; and
3. encouraging literacy and imagination.

What if I was never exposed to books as a child? What if I never found Grug? I wonder if I would be a little different today. Perhaps I wouldn’t be so accepting of my mistakes as an opportunity to learn. I’m glad I don’t have to find out.

Read books: they can change your life.

Books I read as a child that had an impact on my life:
Grug by Ted Prior: It’s okay to make mistakes
The Big Orange Spot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater: Be yourself even if that is different from everyone else
The Bible: Gave me hope and taught me how to live
Noddy by Enid Blyton: Took me to a place of colour and wonder
Animalia by Graeme Base: Imagination is a wonderful thing

What book has had an impact on you?


  1. Rebecca Newman12 January, 2011

    Love this post, Kelly and Susan. It's so much fun to share your childhood favourites with your own kids, isn't it? :-) (And I love your Grug toy!)

    You are so right when you say it's important to expose children to a variety of books. Wonder which book will be the one that they'll be writing about when they're all grown up ...

  2. The Grug books are fabulous. We had a whole collection of them as kids too.

    My son got the same Grug stuffed toy for Christmas from his aunty! Ours came in a box with a book and CD of the book being read. I was mostly excited by the book on CD. It is so hard to find those around, and they tend to be quite expensive.

  3. The Book Chook12 January, 2011

    We should do a survey each year, and ask parents to ask their kids to choose their very favourite book. It would be so interesting to see how it changes over time. And interesting to see if any of the parents' own beloved books are included in their children's choices.

  4. The Book Chook12 January, 2011

    Julie, I didn't know it was hard to find CD books. Is that just the Grug books on CD that are hard to find, or generally?

  5. Yes, mine has the CD too! Love it! And love the Grug books. There's something special about them.

  6. Hi Rebecca

    It's SO fun to share books I loved with my children. And you know, I find it interesting to see which books my children gravitate to. It gives me a small peek into their personality. Love that.

  7. We're a family of Grug fans too!

  8. The Book Chook13 January, 2011

    Grug gets the thumbs up all around!

  9. Renee Taprell13 January, 2011

    Who doesn't love GRUG? He is adorable and he's stood the test of time just like the Mr Men books. I think he's appeal is because of the small book size, easy for little hands to manipulate and the simple words. I've noticed that many classic books are now sold with stuffed characters. I've seen Spot the Dog, The Green Sheep, Grug, and more. I think it's a lovely way for children to connect to their favourite book characters through reading, followed by a huge SQUEEZE!

  10. The Book Chook14 January, 2011

    Renee, I agree wholeheartedly! Anything that helps kids make connections to literature has my support. It's such a lovely gift too, to find a book and then a toy to go with it eg a little train with Thomas the Tank Engine or a caterpillar puppet with a Hungry Caterpillar book.

  11. Great... now I want The Green Sheep too. Ha!

  12. The Book Chook18 January, 2011

    The Green Sheep is really cute, Kelly. I've seen it in lots of book stores coupled with Mem's book. So far I've resisted it but ...

  13. I must find a Grug book, I don't know of Grug but he sounds delightful!

  14. The Book Chook06 February, 2011

    He IS delightful, Kelly!


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